The holidays are a time of great happiness, joy and cheer…or so we are told. As a matter of fact, if you look to the media, (i.e., print, film or radio) you will be inundated with a spectacular accompaniment of both visual and auditory stimulation designed to remind you that the holidays are filled with happiness. If this is not enough for you, you need not look any further than social media. Facebook further offers you the opportunity to witness a glorious display of familial fanfare, marital bliss, friendship follies with mistletoe and kisses at every click of a page. With the advent of social media, we often place significant attention on the public portrayal of happiness. This is especially true as we seek to create hallmark moments of perfection during the holiday that we can post and share with our friends. Sounds absolutely spectacular doesn’t it? Yet, how much of this is reality?
Social media has long served many purposes, not all of which are positive. As a matter of fact, according to Divorce-Online, in 2011, approximately 33% of divorce proceedings mention the word Facebook. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers supported this trend by reporting a staggering 81% of divorce attorneys identifying that Facebook played a role in the demise of marital bliss1 (read more about this idea here). Researchers suspect that potential or prior partners’ accessibility on Facebook may also attribute to an increase in divorce rates.2 This trend is damning for our cyber-obsessed population; individuals who spend considerable time on Facebook (a) contribute to or develop Facebook-related jealousy which may actually result in future conflict or separation, (b) are at a higher risk for the temptations for physical and/or emotional cheating, and (c) may neglect their partners, all of which lead to negative relationship outcomes.2
But why do we allow a computer screen to dictate our happiness, especially during a time as magical as the holidays? Researchers found that the greater involvement one has with Facebook, the more likely one is to perceive that others are happier and are having better lives, and are less likely to agree that life is fair.3 If we perceive others to be happier than we are, then we are not focusing on the positive aspects in our own relationships. Specifically, “looking at happy pictures of others on Facebook gives people an impression that others are ‘‘always’’ happy and having good lives, as evident from these pictures of happy moments. In contrast to their own experiences of life events, which are not always positive, people are very likely to conclude that others have better lives than themselves and that life is “not fair.”3
Basically, we seek happiness thorough and by the acceptance of others. Before we could choose to “like” our way into friendships, we had to be friendly in real-time relationships. Facebook provides a glimpse into our greatest hopes, dreams and aspirations as well as exposing our insecurities.
This holiday, take the time to count your blessings, both figuratively and literally. Each time you consider the successes of others, ask yourself, “What am I successful at?” Each time you covet your neighbor’s goods, ask yourself, “Do I possess things that others would want?” “Am I fortunate?” The truth is, we all have something that others are envious of. Happiness is what you make of your holiday season. And happiness is NOT a destination but a lifelong journey. Choose happiness and happiness will find you.
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1American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. http://www.aaml.org/about-the-academy/press/press-releases/e-discovery/big-surge-social-networking-evidence-says-survey-
2Clayton, R. B., Nagurney, A., & Smith, J. R. (2013). Cheating, breakup, and divorce: is Facebook use to blame?. Cyberpsychology, Behavior And Social Networking, 16(10), 717-720. doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.0424
3Chou, H. G., & Edge, N. (2012). ‘They are happier and having better lives than i am’: the impact of using Facebook on perceptions of others’ lives. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 15(2), 117-121. doi:10.1089/cyber.2011.0324
Karla Ivankovich, PhD, LCPC, DCC – Facebook | Website
Karla has earned degrees in a range of disciplines including: Business Administration, Psychology, Human Development Counseling, and INO-Disability Studies. Karla is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor who is board certified by the American Psychotherapy Association. Karla teaches Psychology for the University of Illinois at Springfield. In addition, Karla is the co-founder and President of OnePatient Global Health Initiative. Karla also hosts a radio show called Life and Love, with her partner, Dr. Daniel Ivankovich. The show airs on the iHeart radio network.