“Using social media to be happy? Never heard of her”

Using social media to increase happiness


Savannah Jones enjoying Twitter. Photo by Kayla Oba.

With the start of the new year, many BHS students resolved to bring more positivity into their lives. To accomplish their New Year’s resolution, students utilize social media platforms. According to the Pew Research Center, 94 percent of U.S. teenagers have a social media account. The prevalent use of social media raises mental health concerns amongst teens. However, many studies show that social media can actually be used to make people happy.

Instagram is the most popular social media platform on the market. Taking this fact into account, the University of Leuven in Belgium conducted a large scale study in 2017 relating to teen’s Instagram usage and its relationship to happiness. Entrepreneur.com, a business magazine and website, reports that the University followed youths and surveyed them twice a year “regarding their use of social media and their life contentment.” The results conveyed that Instagram instilled feelings of friendship and closeness, which reduced depression and anxiety. Of course, the type of content viewed on Instagram affects how users feel. However, the purpose of Instagram is centered around connecting individuals with their peers to share their documented experiences. The goal of Instagram aligns with the university study: through photo and video sharing, Instagram allows users to be more connected with their friends and like-minded individuals.

The University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business conducted a similar study on the psychology of how Instagram induces happiness in users. The Atlantic, an American news and analysis website, reports that USC researchers found a correlation between documenting experiences via social media platforms and increased happiness. Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the team at USC found that capturing experiences through photos and videos amplifies enjoyment. It is not the act of taking photos that makes the experience more enjoyable. Rather, it is “the kind of mental curation that is required when you’re thinking about what is worth documenting in the first place.” The act of determining which moments can be “Instagram worthy” pictures heightens the experience, thereby making it more enjoyable.

Take sightseeing, for example. The USC researchers divided people into two tour buses. Both buses took away their phones, but one bus tour provided digital cameras. TIME reports that along the journey, the researchers found, “people who photographed the sights enjoyed the experience much more than those who simply sat and watched and absorbed.” Snapping a photo directs one’s attention, which heightens the pleasure one gets from what they are seeing. People look longer at things they want to photograph, which makes them dig deeper into the purpose, meaning, or its aesthetic qualities. Therefore, the group who took photos enjoyed the tour significantly more.

Posting photos also makes one feel happy. According to Huffington Post, an American news website, “celebrating your personal achievements on Facebook is a great way to make you feel good about yourself and also generate positive feedback from friends.” Especially when it is a photo of a loved one, or a beloved memory, posting photos can significantly improve one’s happiness.

Twitter is a great source for striking up a conversation or cultivating ideas on any topic. According to Psych Central, a mental health website, Twitter allows users to pursue their passions and interests. Junior Julia Hyde is an avid Twitter user. She says, “[Twitter] lets me have an outlet for writing jokes and building inside jokes with my friends.” Twitter is a great outlet to spark conversation and ideas with other like-minded people. Hyde also adds, “a bunch of people have the same dry sense of humor as I do.” Through sharing her passion via Twitter, Hyde builds relationships and bonds with her followers.  

Many users utilize social media platforms to keep up with celebrity gossip and news. However, people also use social media to create a shared sense of experience by posting pictures and exploring creative outlets. The shared sense of experience that social media platforms provide contributes to user happiness. Thus, social media creates a community of like-minded individuals and increases a sense of community and belonging.