Grateful for Facebook

I wrote about the connection between Facebook and mood a while ago (ok, a long long time ago)¬†and today I’m going to try to articulate a little more how I feel social media can be used for gratitude. But first, a little song about gratitude.

There are many studies showing that gratitude helps combat depression and increase happiness. In a world where we are constantly obsessing about amassing more money, shoes, or friends and finally attaining the right marital status, job or weight, we tend to forget how much we already have. Taking the time to count our blessings every day has proved to help us refocus our thoughts and serves as a reminder of how lucky we truly are.

Social media statuses are a great way to practice gratitude.

Observe the world around you and take a picture of the pretty little purple flower growing between the cobblestones and share it with your friend. When you feel the sun on your face, shoot the sunrise and upload it. Snap any moment that melts your heart, especially if they involve four-legged furry friends. Did your tram driver just make a joke about the weather? Tweet it. Did you just have the best fair trade sundried sausage? I’m going to need a picture of that. Did you buy the cutest Havaianas? By all means, show me!

Why? You are creating a mindfulness practice. By trying to look at the world through gratitude glasses, you are teaching yourself to pause and notice the beauty around you. The more you do it, the less importance you give to all the dark, ugly, crappy, negative stuff.

And sharing? Well, I like to see more happy people in my feed, and I bet your friends do too!

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Facebook and happiness

I’ve read many studies that suggest that social media makes people less focused and unhappy.

Researchers usually are unable to explain why but some of the theories they hazard are around the fact that:

– virtual relationships are not as warm and fuzzy as ‘real’ ones

– fear of missing out accentuates our natural envious ‘the grass is greener’ unhappiness

– the speed at which your streams get new content makes your mind jump from one topic to the next and leaves you unable to concentrate.

I disagree.

As someone who can be moody and never enjoyed the telephone, I have developed warm, fuzzy relationships with many people purely thanks to social networks. Because I decide when I engage and what I read, I’m able to stay away from humans on my werewolf days, and be a (hopefully) supportive friends when I have the energy. It’s also easier for me to share my emotions in my facebook status than to vocalize them aloud, and I must say that looking for the right word to describe how I feel at this moment has helped me get more in touch my emotions.

The fear of missing out aspect is an interesting one. I make a conscious effort to only share positive or constructive, debatable facts and opinions on social networks. This is on one hand because I don’t want my web history to show a life of grumpy posts, but also because I think there aren’t enough positive news facts or comments in my life. I want my stream to be a source of happiness for those who chose to friend or follow me. And by forcing myself to find the positive for my facebook friends, I find the positive all around me. And I realize that I’m continuously practicing gratefulness and mindfulness. The sunrise this morning, which on a busy day like today I would have ignored, became something beautiful enough for me to spend a few min to share with my posse. I find myself thinking less negative thoughts and finding the beauty and pleasure in all the little things.

So facebook has made me a happier person.

On the last aspect – concentration – well, I do have the attention span of a goldfish, but maybe jumping from one happy topic to one brilliant idea to one interesting article is not the worse way to live, is it?