Should you get a cat, shun meat, live child-free and cancel your Facebook account; or get a dog, gorge yourself on steak, have a huge family – and post about it every day? We look at what new research tells us about the big choices in life.

Are you connected? According to recent statistics, 59% of the UK population now have active social media accounts, with Facebook by far the most popular (43% of the population use it). Social media undoubtedly have benefits, be it staying in touch with friends, hearing about news or events, or connecting with interesting – or useful – strangers. On the other hand, it may be a bit of a pact with the devil; because if you are not careful you could compromise your privacy and hand over your personal data to goodness knows whom. Privacy concerns aside, there may be other downsides to Facebook use. Recent studies have suggested that it may encourage narcissism, and it is associated with loneliness – although this is probably because lonely people are more likely to use Facebook.

It’s also possible that constantly reading about your friends’ lives could leave you feeling less satisfied with your own.

Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan has been studying the effect of Facebook use on subjective wellbeing in college students. He says that there are two very different ways of using the technology; you can actively communicate with people and post information of your own, or you can be a passive user – simply checking your newsfeed and looking at other people’s photos.

“Our research shows that when you engage in this kind of voyeuristic usage of the technology, it consistently leads to declines in how good people feel from one moment to the next,” says Kross. “Possibly this is because you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people, and when people post information, it’s usually of good things.” Being an active user didn’t necessarily make people feel better about themselves, “it just doesn’t harm you,” Kross says.

So tighten up your privacy settings; become an active user, rather than a lurker, and you’ll maximise your chances of social media working for you.


Read the full article "Get married or stay single?" at The Guardian.