Does Facebook Boost Happiness — Or Not?

TypeonkeyboardIf you’re like me, you’ve had conversations with your friends about Facebook – whether to jump in or not. I’m a big fan, so I’m always trying to convince the skeptics to join.

Those who haven’t joined often make happiness-based arguments against it. “Instead of making plans and meeting face to face and doing things,” one friend told me, “everyone’s typing away in front of a screen, alone. I want to see my friends! Facebook can’t be good for friendships.”

I disagree. True, meeting face to face is more energizing, more fun, and strengthens ties better. But not using Facebook because it isn’t as good as meeting in person is an example of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

In my own experience, Facebook allows me to manage ties to a much larger group of people than I could possibly manage in a more direct way. I can follow people’s adventures with far less effort from them or me. I can keep track of people through many changes of email, address, etc. It gives me a quick way to reach out to friends — and also a low-key way to connect with people whom I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling or even emailing. I’m sure not going to write a hand-written note!

Ancient philosophers and contemporary scientists agree that the KEY to happiness is strong ties to other people. If you have five or more friends with whom to confide an important issue, you’re far more likely to describe yourself as “very happy.” If a mid-life crisis hits, one of the most common complaints is the lack of true friends. If you need some ideas for making and strengthening friendships, here are some tips.

Bottom line: Anything that helps you hang onto your friends is going to make you happier. What do you think about Facebook — do you embrace it or not? Have you found other good ways of keeping your friendships strong?

The days are long, but the years are short.