Facebook Blues

Today I read about an interesting study from the University of Michigan which found that the more people used Facebook, the unhappier they were.

This may seem counter intuitive since you’d think that being more connected to others would enhance one’s sense of well-being.

One possible explanation is that by spending more time doing virtual socializing, people are doing less real socializing, which leads to loneliness and discontent. A more likely explanation, in my view, is that social media sites are chock full of self-promoting posts, though admittedly most are subtle. Then, when people compare the virtual lives of others to their reality, it leads to envy and feelings of diminished self-worth. What do you think?

Are there any implications for social learning? For example, when people visit a site for social learning, they may be distracted by how others perceive their posts; they may also be envious of others’ clever posts; and considerations of workplace politics may seep into people’s minds before they participate in discussions.

What might address these concerns, if they are indeed legitimate? One idea would be to enable features for learners to comment anonymously using a screen name. A possible downside to this might be there would be less incentive to participate if people don’t receive “credit” or kudos for contributing to the dialog.

What do you think? (…feel free to respond with a fake name 🙂 )



  1. Michelle Kieran :

    To answer your implied question – how can we encourage participation – I think it will increasingly become the job of e-learning professionals to curate social elearning. For example, we’ll need to find ways to encourage subject matter experts to chime in on forums, create learning experiences with hooks to social resources, find ways to correct inaccuracies in content (social media can often be factually wrong!), and so on.

    • Totally agree with this BTW. Curation is a very important key. Outside of the L&D world, I rely heavily on curators to help me find the information that I need in order to stay on top of trends in design, innovation, thinking, learning, and cat videos.

  2. If the real question is how can you help people to be more happy, I think the documentary “Happy” provides a very interesting framework. I would highly recommend that everyone watch it. I think about it all the time:


    I believe it’s available to watch on Netflix instant watch – so no excuses.

    Rob, I think you’re asking how you can avoid the mistakes of mainstream social media in social learning. I think that the movie “Happy” provides a very worthwhile set of ideas for how this could be done. The ideas will need to be abstracted, but many are very applicable. You’ll find that some are clearly outside the reach of social learning, or any technology for that matter.

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