When it comes to Facebook, there are people who love it and people who hate it. The truth is that Facebook has become so integrated into daily life that it provides the most potential for significantly improving your standard of living if you embrace it.
There are a lot of studies out there claiming that social media sites like Facebook can make you sad. In fact Mihir discussed this just last year. In the same year, Dann wrote about how Facebook privacy issues can cost you money and Andre wrote about how political opinions on Facebook have become a real problem.
With all of this hate toward Facebook, can I really make the claim that Facebook can improve your life? Yes indeed, I can.
Dealing With Family Crisis
I’ve seen my share of family crises — everything from severe healthcare issues for my wife and daughter, to the death of my younger sister. Every single time there’s a gut-wrenching event, my Facebook friends and family have come to the rescue.
It isn’t so much that those family and friends are physically present or anything — but it’s just the fact that they would take the time to write a few words of encouragement. It makes all the difference in the world.
In days long past, you would have had to spend several hours on the phone calling all of your relatives to alert them about the family crisis — today, while you’re in the midst of dealing with some terrible situation, you can issue a single update and alert dozens or hundreds of people in your life who truly care.
This isn’t to say that Mihir and other writers here at MakeUseOf are wrong about Facebook potentially being bad for mental health, but the truth is it isn’t that cut and dry. Much depends on how you use the site. This is especially true for introverts.
In fact, in January, one paper published by two scientists in Communications of the ACM noted that while lurking on Facebook and comparing your life to all of those Facebook updates can definitely have a negative impact on your mental health, they also discovered that people who actually interacted one-on-one by posting to other peoples’ Facebook walls and actively having conversations, were actually happier.
“…the Carnegie Mellon researchers replicated their experiment, and discovered that the more people used the Internet to talk to their friends, the less depressed they became.”
In a follow-up study, the researchers took a closer look at how a person’s actual activity on Facebook influenced mental health, and confirmed their earlier findings.
“Like the previous finding, this one indicated that using the Internet to connect with friends may be beneficial. Specifically, one-on-one Facebook interactions (such as posting to friends’ walls and commenting on their pics) resulted in increased feelings of happiness.”
I can personally attest to the fact that this is true. It’s especially true when you’re the kind of person who is so busy with work and your immediate family that there’s just not realistically enough time to get on the phone and spend 30 minutes to an hour with 10 to 20 members of your closest family and friends who you want to stay in touch with.
With Facebook, you can interact personally with those same people you love in a fraction of the time. You can post to their walls and offer encouragement during their difficulties or offer excitement in their successes. You can quickly catch up with them in a Facebook Messenger chat. These conversations and interactions are no less meaningful or helpful than past forms of communication.
More so, in fact, because you can have them more frequently.
Softening the Blow During Hard Times
We recently went through another healthcare crisis that made it so we could no longer care for the two dogs we had. It was the hardest decision our family ever had to make, because we’ve had one of the dogs for nearly a decade and she was a part of our family.
In the past, a family would be faced with bringing the dogs to a local shelter and hoping for the best, or trying to call family members to seek out someone willing to help. Again, this could take hours of effort with no good resolution in the end.
Thanks to Facebook, things are quite different.
One single post on Facebook turned up nearly a dozen family and friends — people who I absolutely know and trust to be wonderful “parents” for our little pug, expressing interest in adopting her into their homes.
Facebook provides a way to quickly touch base in a personal way with one-on-one chats, to learn the home situation of everything interested and who might be best suited to adopt. In this specific case, one friend stood out as especially capable of giving her a wonderful home, and we set up a meeting for the next weekend.
Thanks to Facebook, within a couple of days, what would have been a heartbreaking family crisis turned into a wonderful situation for everyone.
Not only does Facebook provide for a quick way to get help from family and friends during such a crisis, but in situations like this, it’s also wonderful to see the positive outcome play out on everyone’s Facebook wall.
Now that our dog has found a new home, we occasionally get to see just how happy she is when our friends post pictures of her on Facebook. It’s truly a sad situation that turned into a very positive and happy win-win for everyone.
Bringing Families Together
Despite the fact that so many pundits these days claim Facebook is ruining relationships, I believe that just the opposite is happening. Not only does Facebook allow people you know to offer you an encouraging word or a helping hand, but it also gives you the opportunity to help others — and everyone knows that helping others is a great path toward happiness for yourself.
More often than not, I’ve personally witnessed entire families coming together to assist someone in the family who is going through terrible times. This may be sending flowers, food, gifts, money, or even visiting in person. In some cases families have used Facebook to quickly organize fund-raising for making much-needed purchases during a crisis.
These are situations and responses that either would have taken weeks or months to organize in the days before social networks, or they never would have happened in the first place.
In fact, there are some people who use Facebook primarily for helping others! Just a few examples:
- In 2015, a South Carolina Facebook group started to help flood victims reunite with their lost pets.
- Following terror attacks, Facebook has implemented Facebook Safety Check pages where you can check if your friends are okay, or if you’ve heard from them, let everyone else know that they’re okay.
- According to author Jean Dobbs, Facebook allows people with disabilities to better advocate on disability issues, and it even makes it easier for them to find employment and advance their careers.
- Facebook’s memorial feature where people can leave messages on the walls of those who have passed away is often touted as a very positive way for families to deal with the loss of loved ones. Reading encouraging words and fond memories aids the grieving process.
With all of the ways Facebook now brings friends and families together for all sorts of reasons, it’s very difficult to comprehend why anyone would ever say Facebook is anything but a good thing.
Reduce, Recycle and Reuse
Finally, Facebook is also good for the environment.
Sounds like a strange claim to make, but when you browse through all of the “Buy, Swap and Sell” groups that have cropped up in every town, State and even every country, it’s easy to see just what an impact this can have on the environment.
In days gone by, when a family had furniture, clothes, electronics or gym equipment that they got bored with, more often than not, it would end up in the landfill.
I remember, when I was a kid, spending Sunday afternoons browsing through the pile of tossed out goods so I could find spare bike parts, electronics to take apart, and furniture for my room. It was tragic just how many good-as-new things people would throw away.
With Facebook, many of those things can find a new home.
Not only is this great for the environment, but it’s one of those secret weapons every frugal person uses to live below their means.
And if you need to get rid of your household goods, you’ll feel that much better for not adding to the ever-growing landfill.
Facebook Is Good
With all of these wonderful things Facebook offers to improve our lives. It’s difficult to comprehend why anyone would claim it’s been anything other than good for our society in general.
With that said, there are certainly bad things about Facebook — like cyberbullying and Internet addiction – but those are things that can be overcome through the sensible use of all social media. The bottom line is that there’s so much good that comes from social media that it makes sense to embrace it into our lives, and use it as a force for good.
Have you embraced Facebook as a part of your life, or do you feel like it’s somehow harmful? Now you know my opinion, but I’d like to hear yours. Let’s talk about it in the comments section below.
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