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Can Twitter Make You Happier?

Use Social Media to Raise Your Happiness Rather Than Distract From What Matters Most

Most people can’t avoid social media these days, even if they want to. But is social media bringing us together – or pulling us apart?

The Keep Good Going Report* recently found that half of Americans (51%) say that social networking has had a negative impact on how people interact with one another in society. Further, nearly half of frequent social media users (48%) felt that social networking makes no positive impact on how individuals interact with each other in society.

If you are similarly unsure about whether social media is a positive force in your life or in society, it can be helpful to know how to use media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to foster happiness in your life and in the lives of others.

Here are three ways to use social media to cultivate happiness:

1) Use it to foster real-life social connections. If we’ve learned anything in the last 100 years of research on happiness, it is that a person’s happiness is best predicted by the breadth and depth of their connections to other people. Use Facebook to find a long lost friend—and then follow-up by getting in touch in person. Use Twitter to send a funny article to your spouse, so that you can both laugh about it at dinner later. Or use Instagram to send your teenager a photo of her favorite pet, so that she knows that you are thinking of her even when she is away at school.

2) Think about who you’d like to become in the future, and use social media as a tool to help you get there. If we want to be happy—or happier—there are ways to use Facebook and other social media to help us reach this goal. We know that certain practices, like acts of kindness and expressions of gratitude, are highly likely to increase our happiness. Social media is a tool that can be used to practice our happiness habits.

For example, why not post a photo of something that you feel grateful for on Instagram? Or build real-life social connections by posting appreciation for others on Facebook? Or use Pinterest to collect things that inspire and fill us with awe?

3) Think about how you want to influence the world for the better. When we start using social media to bring joy to ourselves and our communities, we can quickly see that it can be a powerful way to influence the world for good. We can re-post rubber-necking comments that are likely to spread fear (like those awful emergency room photos), or we can post quotations, articles, and photographs that inspire us and others. We can whine about how we were treated badly in the grocery store, or we can be activists, using social media to articulate our position on an issue.

When we use social media to help us influence the world in a positive way, it really can help us reach for our highest—and happiest—selves.

*The Keep Good Going Report is a survey of more than 2,000 Americans that was sponsored by New York Life.