Can Social Media Make You Truly Happy?

Can Social Media Make You Truly Happy?

This is a guest post by Stuart Mills.

“You are what you tweet.” – Alex Tew.

I’ve found myself wondering whether social media is all it’s cracked up to be.

Sure it makes it easier to connect with people from all over the world, from Nigeria to Nicaragua and from Pakistan to Poland, but how much satisfaction and contentment are we really getting from this online craze?

Social Media And Value

It’s common these days to see the youth of today heavily engaged in social media, chatting to their friends about any topic under the sun. They’re either on Facebook or Google+, or they’re on Twitter telling the world about the strange homeless man they’ve just walked past.

But despite all of this usage that social media gets, is there a lot of value going on around here? Are there any debates as to how to solve the problems of the world, or even a genuine problem that one of their friends is going through? Better yet, how many conversations in social media do you get where at least one person feels genuinely better having had that conversation?

Social Media And Time

Let’s look at another perspective on this, look at the amount of time we spend active on social media sites. The extremists spend up to 7-8 hours a day on social networks, but I believe the average person of today spends between 1-2 hours a day.

Now, let’s say that someone spends 1 hour a weekday on social media, and 2 hours a day on weekends, chatting away with their friends and viewing the latest photos and tweets. It sounds like a ‘normal’ amount, right? Multiply each weekday by 5, and each weekend day by 2, and you’re left with a weekly social media total of 9 hours a week on social media sites.

Again, this may seem like a normal and ordinary amount for you, but let’s now look at what you’re spending those 9 hours on.

Social Media And Content

Let’s look at some of the things you can do on social media:

-          Instant messaging

-          Updating statuses

-          Sending individual/direct messages

-          Promoting yours, or someone else’s content

Looking at these items, we can certainly keep in touch with our friends, and we can keep up regular relations with our clients. This is all well and good, but take this away, and what is left? What else can you do in social media besides these afore-mentioned items?

The truth is, not a lot.

Sure, you can play games and you can ‘poke’ your friends and family, but is this really important? Even referring to what is listed above, how much time do you need to be spending there? Do you really need to spend 9 hours a week on keeping in touch with friends and clients?

Granted, some of the more important relationships in your life will warrant a longer time, but the more important relationships in our lives are also maintained outside social media, and even outside the internet. Our families and our closest friends are traditionally the ‘more important relationships’, and how many of them are based primarily on a social media network?

Take away the ‘core relationships’ of your life and you’re left with those relationships that are standard, such as those with our clients and the rest of our social circle. Do you really need, or want, to be spending 9 hours a week building a relationship with them?

That’s a question that only you can answer for yourself, but I believe a good portion of those 9 hours can be spent otherwise.

Social Media And Society

Let’s consider the big picture – social media is meant to represent, at least in theory, the ‘society of the world’. It’s meant to be the voice which communicates to the world what the ‘common person’ is thinking, and what the common person wants. In other words, social media is meant to be our way of communicating with the world at large.

Do you think it’s doing a good job?

Personally, I don’t think it’s doing a good job at all. There’s too much mindless chatter, too much time wasted on activities that are either trivial or completely meaningless. And the worst part is that this isn’t likely to end any time soon.

If social media wishes to truly provide happiness on a deeper scale, then it needs to provide deep and lasting value. Enabling someone to provide a virtual cake for a friend on their birthday is not deep and lasting value. Having a deep conversation with someone about their countries’ politics, and discussing ways to improve is a much better way to provide deep and lasting value.

In fact, discussing deeper issues and opening up on a level that both parties agree upon and trust, is something that can quite easily come about. How? The trick is to be more aware.

Be Aware

Social media is the same as any other feature in this world – you get out of it what you put into it. If I was to spend an hour on Facebook viewing other people’s profiles and checking for new photos, then I’m not going to get much out of it. But if I have a meaningful conversation about a third-world crisis with someone, then I’m going to feel much more engaged and energised as a result.

So here’s the key – be more aware of what you use social media for. That’s my challenge to you. The next time you log onto your Google+ or your Twitter account, decide there and then what you’re going to do with your time. Then, as you’re using that social network, be aware of your actions and what you’re clicking on. If you find yourself drifting off into auto-pilot, bring yourself back to your pre-set agenda. Simple as that.

By being more aware, you can get more value out of your social media time, and possibly spend less time by doing more. There’s a lot of benefit up for grabs here.

So I’ll see you in the chatroom?

About the author: Stuart Mills is a personal development writer. He’s also the owner of Unlock The Door, where he writes about living a happier life.

image: Paloetic

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Danny Brown
Co-author Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing. #1 marketing blog in world as per HubSpot. Husband. Father. Optimist. Pragmatist. Never says no to a good single malt. You can find me on Twitter - Google+ - LinkedIn.
128 comments
Mike Ashworth
Mike Ashworth

alas not im afraid. a study that Oliver James the psychologist wrote about showed that ppl who interacted with others online felt worse afterwards than those who had not interacted at all. their is no substitute for face-to-face conversation / community. "web 3.0 - back down the pub"

Mike Ashworth
Mike Ashworth

alas not im afraid. a study that Oliver James the psychologist wrote about showed that ppl who interacted with others online felt worse afterwards than those who had not interacted at all. their is no substitute for face-to-face conversation / community. "web 3.0 - back down the pub"

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MikeLarry

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Yang
Yang

First I want to say, social media really make me spending more time online chating with friends and checking their profiles and statuses. This makes me happy and helps me keep tighter connection with my friends. But at the time, I have to admit that it is kind of wasting time for doing these things. Since social media can make big influences on our society, we should try to maximize their values to benefit our society.

Yang
Yang

First I want to say, social media really make me spending more time online chating with friends and checking their profiles and statuses. This makes me happy and helps me keep tighter connection with my friends. But at the time, I have to admit that it is kind of wasting time for doing these things. Since social media can make big influences on our society, we should try to maximize their values to benefit our society.

Carolina&lt;
Carolina&lt;

Annette thanks for sharing this story, and certainly you do use social media with a good purpose. I have to admit that more than once i have scrolled through random pictures and felt bored when I finally decided to get out of facebook. luckily i am learning to use it more as a tool to communicate with the people that i need to or with loved ones and then quickly get out. It should be used in an active manner, if that makes any sense. ;)

Carolina&lt;
Carolina&lt;

Annette thanks for sharing this story, and certainly you do use social media with a good purpose. I have to admit that more than once i have scrolled through random pictures and felt bored when I finally decided to get out of facebook. luckily i am learning to use it more as a tool to communicate with the people that i need to or with loved ones and then quickly get out. It should be used in an active manner, if that makes any sense. ;)

Carolina&lt;
Carolina&lt;

Annette thanks for sharing this story, and certainly you do use social media with a good purpose. I have to admit that more than once i have scrolled through random pictures and felt bored when I finally decided to get out of facebook. luckily i am learning to use it more as a tool to communicate with the people that i need to or with loved ones and then quickly get out. It should be used in an active manner, if that makes any sense. ;)

InspiredAnnette
InspiredAnnette

It's taken me a few days to get to this but I really wanted to comment because I think it's important. Stuart writes, " If I was to spend an hour on Facebook viewing other people’s profiles and checking for new photos, then I’m not going to get much out of it." Well... that's YOUR experience and YOUR perspective Stuart; we don't all share that experience. All of my family lives in other provinces in Canada (NS, PE, NL) so when I spend time looking at photos of their children as they grow, their dogs, their new cottage, their vacation photos, I am actually "connecting" with my family. As I work for my clients, I spend all day thinking - sometimes 16 hours a day. The last thing I want do do at night on Facebook is to engage in a heavy conversation about third-world issues or any other mind-bending topics. I need a break, I want to engage and connect with people who matter to me .... and I do :) A few days ago a cousin of mine passed away. We haven't seen each other in "real life" for 40 years but her death affected me as if I saw her regularly. Why? Because I connected with her regularly through social media platforms. I saw the beauty of her paintings and the love she had for animals; I got to experience her life, her talents and gifts BECAUSE OF social media. The data that I have been accessing about time spent watching television versus time spent online tells me that we are watching less TV and spending more time online. So wasn't some of that TV-watching pretty mindless too? I cancelled satellite because nobody in my house was watching it and the money I saved paid for my daughter's braces HAHA! Nine hours a week is no big deal. People who don't spend time online but watch TV are spending more than that on their favourite shows. Some of us REALLY connect. We are engaged in relationships that wouldn't be possible without social media. Social media has added a great deal of depth to the relationships in my life. In this instance, I will have to politely disagree with your position.

InspiredAnnette
InspiredAnnette

It's taken me a few days to get to this but I really wanted to comment because I think it's important. Stuart writes, " If I was to spend an hour on Facebook viewing other people’s profiles and checking for new photos, then I’m not going to get much out of it." Well... that's YOUR experience and YOUR perspective Stuart; we don't all share that experience. All of my family lives in other provinces in Canada (NS, PE, NL) so when I spend time looking at photos of their children as they grow, their dogs, their new cottage, their vacation photos, I am actually "connecting" with my family. As I work for my clients, I spend all day thinking - sometimes 16 hours a day. The last thing I want do do at night on Facebook is to engage in a heavy conversation about third-world issues or any other mind-bending topics. I need a break, I want to engage and connect with people who matter to me .... and I do :) A few days ago a cousin of mine passed away. We haven't seen each other in "real life" for 40 years but her death affected me as if I saw her regularly. Why? Because I connected with her regularly through social media platforms. I saw the beauty of her paintings and the love she had for animals; I got to experience her life, her talents and gifts BECAUSE OF social media.

The data that I have been accessing about time spent watching television versus time spent online tells me that we are watching less TV and spending more time online. So wasn't some of that TV-watching pretty mindless too? I cancelled satellite because nobody in my house was watching it and the money I saved paid for my daughter's braces HAHA! Nine hours a week is no big deal. People who don't spend time online but watch TV are spending more than that on their favourite shows.

Some of us REALLY connect. We are engaged in relationships that wouldn't be possible without social media. Social media has added a great deal of depth to the relationships in my life. In this instance, I will have to politely disagree with your position.

schnoerrchen
schnoerrchen

Thanks for this really good post as it nicely contrast the pros and cons of social media use. It's not "bad social networking sites" or "Facebook will solve it all" but I rather think you are absolutely right when you say, that we should be aware of what we are doing and how we are spending our time. Of course I linger about there most often too not doing much. But some weeks ago I think I really used it for something good (http://wp.me/p1JgHJ-1P) even if it was just a means to gather some strangers to for a new band of acquaintances and maybe friends for a weekly (offline) meeting ;-)

schnoerrchen
schnoerrchen

Thanks for this really good post as it nicely contrast the pros and cons of social media use. It's not "bad social networking sites" or "Facebook will solve it all" but I rather think you are absolutely right when you say, that we should be aware of what we are doing and how we are spending our time. Of course I linger about there most often too not doing much. But some weeks ago I think I really used it for something good (http://wp.me/p1JgHJ-1P) even if it was just a means to gather some strangers to for a new band of acquaintances and maybe friends for a weekly (offline) meeting ;-)

KimDavies
KimDavies

Hi, Stu. Glad to find you here. It's nice to see my friends guest posting on such influential sites as Danny's. :) As somebody who is not exactly into social media (I only got Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn for work and I don't even use it much), I still can say though that it has its perks that I wouldn't have enjoyed without it around. I got some of my meaningful conversations with people I don't see regularly on my personal Facebook account. These talks even helped me unburden and sort out some of my emotional troubles. I have online friends also asking me how I am on my Facebook account for work and their messages or posts never fail to bring a smile to my face. Although I don't see much sense in spending my time poring over new pictures, statuses or posted videos on Facebook, I can understand how this could make other people happy. It makes them feel that they are actually catching up with friends' lives. So, even if we all need to be aware about spending our time on matters of great importance, whether it is on social media or not, we certainly can't judge people and the value they place on social media. As they say, different strokes for different folks, eh, Stu? :)

KimDavies
KimDavies

Hi, Stu.

Glad to find you here. It's nice to see my friends guest posting on such influential sites as Danny's. :)

As somebody who is not exactly into social media (I only got Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn for work and I don't even use it much), I still can say though that it has its perks that I wouldn't have enjoyed without it around. I got some of my meaningful conversations with people I don't see regularly on my personal Facebook account. These talks even helped me unburden and sort out some of my emotional troubles. I have online friends also asking me how I am on my Facebook account for work and their messages or posts never fail to bring a smile to my face.

Although I don't see much sense in spending my time poring over new pictures, statuses or posted videos on Facebook, I can understand how this could make other people happy. It makes them feel that they are actually catching up with friends' lives. So, even if we all need to be aware about spending our time on matters of great importance, whether it is on social media or not, we certainly can't judge people and the value they place on social media. As they say, different strokes for different folks, eh, Stu? :)

Danny Brown
Danny Brown moderator

When I first got into social media, it was because I saw the potential for really making change. Change in business; change in communication; change in the world.

Some of that's still prevalent today; some, not so much.

To be fair, though, I think we let ourselves dictate whether anything truly makes us happy. If it doesn't, we should eject it. If we don't, then we only have ourselves to blame for any moroseness.

Thanks for such a wonderful post, sir.

Latest blog post: Think Bigger Than You

DannyBrown
DannyBrown

When I first got into social media, it was because I saw the potential for really making change. Change in business; change in communication; change in the world. Some of that's still prevalent today; some, not so much. To be fair, though, I think we let ourselves dictate whether anything truly makes us happy. If it doesn't, we should eject it. If we don't, then we only have ourselves to blame for any moroseness. Thanks for such a wonderful post, sir.

Jk Allen
Jk Allen

Stu,

Excellent work here. I like your advice as well.

To answer the question. I think Social Media does make some people TRULY HAPPY. Why, because I believe that social media is a major factor in a lot of people's lives. For me, it's cool getting to connect with different people and what not - but what truly makes me happy is found offline. Don't get me wrong, I've made some terrific relationships online, you included, but still - my family takes the title of my heart.

Again, great advice Stu.

Hey Danny!

PEACE

Jk Allen
Jk Allen

Stu, Excellent work here. I like your advice as well. To answer the question. I think Social Media does make some people TRULY HAPPY. Why, because I believe that social media is a major factor in a lot of people's lives. For me, it's cool getting to connect with different people and what not - but what truly makes me happy is found offline. Don't get me wrong, I've made some terrific relationships online, you included, but still - my family takes the title of my heart. Again, great advice Stu. Hey Danny! PEACE

Carolina&lt;
Carolina&lt;

Annette thanks for sharing this story, and certainly you do use social media with a good purpose. I have to admit that more than once i have scrolled through random pictures and felt bored when I finally decided to get out of facebook. luckily i am learning to use it more as a tool to communicate with the people that i need to or with loved ones and then quickly get out. It should be used in an active manner, if that makes any sense. ;) @InspiredAnnette

Carolina&lt;
Carolina&lt;

Annette thanks for sharing this story, and certainly you do use social media with a good purpose. I have to admit that more than once i have scrolled through random pictures and felt bored when I finally decided to get out of facebook. luckily i am learning to use it more as a tool to communicate with the people that i need to or with loved ones and then quickly get out. It should be used in an active manner, if that makes any sense. ;)

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@InspiredAnnette Hi Annette, thanks for taking the time to write such a beautiful comment. I completely agree with you - you've found a great use for social media in keeping relationships alive, and I respect you. The key point I was getting at was to find more value on social media, and use it for means that make you happy, rather than a way just to pass the time. You've clearly found such an honourable way, and I respect you for it :-)

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@InspiredAnnette Hi Annette, thanks for taking the time to write such a beautiful comment.

I completely agree with you - you've found a great use for social media in keeping relationships alive, and I respect you. The key point I was getting at was to find more value on social media, and use it for means that make you happy, rather than a way just to pass the time.

You've clearly found such an honourable way, and I respect you for it :-)

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@schnoerrchen That's a highly decent way of using social media, and I commend you for it! Thanks for sharing the experiment with us :-)

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@schnoerrchen That's a highly decent way of using social media, and I commend you for it!

Thanks for sharing the experiment with us :-)

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@KimDavies It certainly is Kim, and everyone will have their own reasons for hooking up with social media. My reasons were different than what they are now - at first, I wanted just to connect and hang out with friends. But today, I've accepted a larger world view, as well as concede that I wasn't getting as much value out of browsing other people's profiles as I thought I was. Thanks for the comment Kim :-)

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@KimDavies It certainly is Kim, and everyone will have their own reasons for hooking up with social media.

My reasons were different than what they are now - at first, I wanted just to connect and hang out with friends. But today, I've accepted a larger world view, as well as concede that I wasn't getting as much value out of browsing other people's profiles as I thought I was.

Thanks for the comment Kim :-)

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@Danny Brown No problem Mr. Brown, a pleasure to write for you again!

I just remembered my secondary school English teacher was called Mr. Brown. Coincidence, or something else? ;-)

InspiredAnnette
InspiredAnnette

@DannyBrown I haven't seen "morose" used in any form for a good long time Danny! :)

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@DannyBrown No problem Mr. Brown, a pleasure to write for you again! I just remembered my secondary school English teacher was called Mr. Brown. Coincidence, or something else? ;-)

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@Jk Allen Hey Jk, I completely agree with you - my strongest relationships are found offline too.

Having said that, I don't have any 'bad' relationships online, whereas I've had trouble with offline relationships in the past. I wonder why that is...

Maybe that's a whole new post ;-)

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@Jk Allen Hey Jk, I completely agree with you - my strongest relationships are found offline too. Having said that, I don't have any 'bad' relationships online, whereas I've had trouble with offline relationships in the past. I wonder why that is... Maybe that's a whole new post ;-)

InspiredAnnette
InspiredAnnette

@Stuart Mills Thanks Stuart, I appreciate your feedback. I have to say though - I don't really see the difference between someone mindlessly "clicking" the remote or scrolling through Facebook pages. If someone is going to waste time they are going to waste time. I think social media can be used for a great deal of good (charities, promoting new entrepreneurs etc.) and I use it to truly engage with people (I'm a natural networker) but I don't think it HAS to be used that way :)

InspiredAnnette
InspiredAnnette

@Stuart Mills Thanks Stuart, I appreciate your feedback. I have to say though - I don't really see the difference between someone mindlessly "clicking" the remote or scrolling through Facebook pages. If someone is going to waste time they are going to waste time. I think social media can be used for a great deal of good (charities, promoting new entrepreneurs etc.) and I use it to truly engage with people (I'm a natural networker) but I don't think it HAS to be used that way :)

schnoerrchen
schnoerrchen

Thanks :-) It's nothing much, but it seems to work pretty well. We've met every week ever since and have already started to get some group dynamic which is really nice!

schnoerrchen
schnoerrchen

Thanks :-) It's nothing much, but it seems to work pretty well. We've met every week ever since and have already started to get some group dynamic which is really nice!

DannyBrown
DannyBrown

@InspiredAnnette I wasn't even sure if "moroseness" was a word or not - but I didn't see any red correction line underneath, so thought it must be good to go. ;-)

DannyBrown
DannyBrown

@Stuart Mills Ha, well my favourite subject at school was English, so who knows? ;-)

Jk Allen
Jk Allen

@Stuart Mills My thought would be because you don't know people online in the same way as you know people offline. You only get so much from people online...offline, however, you get the entire person (usually).

Jk Allen
Jk Allen

@Stuart Mills My thought would be because you don't know people online in the same way as you know people offline. You only get so much from people online...offline, however, you get the entire person (usually).

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@Danny Brown Well, now that I think about it, my teacher wore glasses, sported a beard, and looked nothing like you.

So unless you're a master of disguise Danny, I think we're OK ;-)

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@DannyBrown Well, now that I think about it, my teacher wore glasses, sported a beard, and looked nothing like you. So unless you're a master of disguise Danny, I think we're OK ;-)

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@Jk Allen Of course - with the amount of bloggers that I know online, it's only fair that I wouldn't get on with some of them offline ;-)

Jk Allen
Jk Allen

Exactly! And as much as all of us online friends have each other's backs and like the heck out of each other...in reality, in the scheme of life (offline) - we might not all be as good of friends as we think we would (some would, most wouldn't). That's just how it is...nothing personal, just life.

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@Jk Allen Those were my thoughts as well - until you actually spend a considerable time with someone, you don't really know them at all.

DannyBrown
DannyBrown

@Jk Allen Couldn't agree more - the last 6 months have shown me a lot in that respect, mate.

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@Jk Allen Of course - with the amount of bloggers that I know online, it's only fair that I wouldn't get on with some of them offline ;-)

Jk Allen
Jk Allen

Exactly! And as much as all of us online friends have each other's backs and like the heck out of each other...in reality, in the scheme of life (offline) - we might not all be as good of friends as we think we would (some would, most wouldn't). That's just how it is...nothing personal, just life.

Stuart Mills
Stuart Mills

@Jk Allen Those were my thoughts as well - until you actually spend a considerable time with someone, you don't really know them at all.

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