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Facebook: To ‘like’ or ‘unlike’, that is the question

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Matt SMith Photoby Matt Smith, Head of Student Wellbeing – Brisbane Boys Grammar

Last year, Facebook turned 10 years old. I’ve had a Facebook account since 2008 and I’m one of 1.44 billion monthly active users.And I’ve come to the conclusion that Facebook can be a hazard to your mental health. I’ll explain why.

My Facebook use is primarily threefold:

  1. To share photos (occasionally)
  2. To post a comment (rarely)
  3. To appease my inner-voyeur (regularly)

It’s the latter that accounts for 95 per cent of my Facebook use. In the same way that one can learn a lot about a person by examining the contents of their bookshelf or the top draw of their office desk, Facebook interaction provides a fascinating portal into personality and character.

Seven years of Facebook voyeurism has led me to the belief that there’s an inverse relationship between happiness and wellbeing and amount of time actually spent on Facebook. In other words, the more one uses Facebook, the less happy they actually are. There’s nothing scientific about this whatsoever. It is merely a hunch.

Over the years I remember reading a number of phrases that seem to support my contention:

  • “Don’t Facebook your problems, face them” – a quotation that, ironically, I sourced from my Facebook feed
  • “The best sign of a healthy relationship is no sign of it on Facebook” – appeared on an on-line ‘someecard’
  • “No we don’t have Wi-fi, talk to each other” – written on a wall in a Brisbane cafe
  • “Pay attention while walking. Your Facebook status update can wait” – sign at the Brisbane Ekka

For something more robust and evidence-based, last year, an article* appeared in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology that links Facebook with mental health problems. The research suggests that the phenomenon of “social comparison”, the constant need to compare lives with each other is eroding our happiness and contributing to poor mental health.

Perhaps it is prudent to consider Theodore Roosevelt’s comment: “comparison is the thief of joy”.

I am not advocating a Facebook boycott, rather a challenge to consider one’s attitude and nuanced approach to this online social platform.

As for me, I will continue to use Facebook but I do wonder what Shakespeare would have thought about all of this.

Perhaps I’ll post that on Facebook?


*Steers, M.N, Wickham, R, Acitelli, L.K. (2014). Seeing everyone else’s highlight reels: how Facebook usage is linked to depressive symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 33 (8): 701-731