As social networks become more and more prominent in our lives, one has to wonder if we are happier being constantly connected. The Happiness Research Institute, an “independent think tank focusing on well-being, happiness and quality of life” in Copenhagen, quite literally put this question to the test.
1,095 people in Denmark participated in the study, aptly named “The Facebook Experiment”. In their normal lives, 9 percent of the participants visited Facebook daily, 86 percent browsed their news feeds “often or very often,” and over three quarters used Facebook for 30 minutes or longer each day.
Participants were asked to evaluate their lives before and after the study “on different dimensions,” including the question “In general, how satisfied are you with your life today?” Then half of the participants (“the treatment group”) were challenged to not use Facebook for a week, while the control group continued to use Facebook as normal.
Before the study, the control group averaged a happiness of 7.67 out of ten; the treatment group had an average happiness of 7.56 out of ten. After the treatment group hadn’t used Facebook for a week, their average happiness was 8.12 out of ten, significantly higher than the control group’s post-experiment average of 7.75 out of ten.
Happiness of control & treatment groups
The treatment group was also less sad and lonely both than their past selves and their control group counterparts after a week off of Facebook, and were able to concentrate more easily. Interestingly, members of the treatment group also saw an increase in their social activity, found more satisfaction with their social lives and were 18 percent more likely to feel present in the moment.
Ultimately, the Happiness Research Institute found Facebook users are 39 percent more likely to be unhappier than their friends who stopped using the site. “Instead of focusing on what we actually need,” the study says, “we have an unfortunate tendency to focus on what other people have.”