Research — 11 November 2015

ALWAYS envious? Got a non-existent social life and struggle to concentrate? All this might be down to Facebook.

After Queensland ‘Instagram celebrity’ Essena O’Neill, 18, turned her back on internet stardom, a new study by the Happiness Research Institute found that people who don’t use the social network feel happier than others.

The study involved a sample of 1095 people in Denmark who were divided into two groups, half of whom continued using Facebook while the others stopped.

“We focused on Facebook because it is the social media that most people use across age groups,” Meik Wiking, CEO of Denmark-based Happiness Research Institute, told AFP.

After a week, those people who hadn’t been on Facebook said they were more satisfied with their lives, with 88 per cent of them describing themselves as “happy” compared with 81 per cent from the second group.

Some 84 per cent said they appreciated their lives compared with 75 per cent in the other group, and only 12 per cent described themselves as dissatisfied, compared with 20 per cent among those who continued using Facebook.

At the end of the experiment, the abstainers reported having a richer social life and fewer difficulties in concentrating, while the others reported no such change. It found Facebook users are 39 per cent more likely to feel less happy than non-users.

Mr Wiking attributed the figures to people’s tendency to compare themselves to others on social media.

“Facebook distorts our perception of reality and of what other people’s lives really look like. We take in to account how we’re doing in life through comparisons to everyone else, and since most people only post positive things on Facebook, that gives us a very biased perception of reality,” he told The Local.

“If we are constantly exposed to great news, we risk evaluating our own lives as less good. There can also be positive benefits from Facebook and social media, but I think the real thing to always be aware of is the affect it has on our perception of reality.

“This constant flow of great news we see on Facebook only represents the top 10 per cent of things that happen to other people. It shouldn’t be used as the background for evaluating our own lives.”

The study comes as Sunshine Coast model Essena O’Neill quit social media after growing disenchanted with the “fake” world of online celebrity. She had half a million Instagram followers, more than 250,000 YouTube subscribers and her Snapchats were viewed by more than 60,000.

“I have created a celebrity mentality or a celebrity concept of myself online and I wish for that to stop right now. I have created an image of myself that I think others feel is unattainable, others look at as a role model, others look at as some type of ‘perfect human’,” she said.

This article first appeared on ‘’ on 11 November 2015.


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