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Social Media Friend Count Linked to Happiness

Update Date: Jun 26, 2017 08:51 AM EDT

Feeling unhappy? Turns out, your friend count on social media could be responsible.

Researchers at Indiana University counted "friends" for 39,1110 Twitter users and found a relationship between the number of social media connections and happiness, according to a report in EPJ Data Science.

The computer scientists focused on subjects with 15 or more "friends," then analyzed the sentiment or mood of the 'twitterers' tweets. 

They found that users deemed less happy by the analysis of their tweets had fewer friends than their friends. What's more, happy users were less happy on average than their friends who had more friends.

"In other words, a majority of users may feel that they're less popular than their friends on average," said Johan Bollen, lead author. "They may also have the impression that they're less happy than their friends on average."

This confirms some of the harmful side effects of social media use. "This analysis contributes to a growing body of evidence that social media may be harmful to users who 'overindulge' in these services since it's nearly impossible to escape negative comparisons to their friends' popularity and happiness," said Bollen. "Given the magnitude of social media adoption across the globe, understanding the connection between social media use and happiness may well shed light on issues that affect the well-being of billions of people," he continued.

This phenomenon is called the "Happiness Paradox" -- the effect that occurs when one's happiness levels are inflated depending on the popularity of their friends.

"Overall, this study finds social media users may experience higher levels of social dissatisfaction and unhappiness due to a negative comparison between their and their friends' happiness and popularity," Bollen explained. "Happy social media users may think their friends are more popular and slightly happier than they are -- and unhappy social media users will likely have unhappy friends who still seem happier and more popular than they are on average."

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