Study Finds That People Are Less Happy And Less Popular Than Their Friends On Social Media

Happines paradox

A recent study has found that on average, people are less popular and less happy than their friends on social media.

Called “The happiness paradox: your friends are happier than you”, the study was conducted by Johan Bollen and Guangchen Ruan from the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, Bruno Gonçalves from the Center for Data Science at New York University, and Ingrid van de Leemput from Environmental Sciences at Wageningen University.

The study looks into the happiness paradox, which says people are less happy than their friends on average, and the friendship paradox, which says that people have less friends than their other connections, on average.

Researchers suggest that the general person might have a few hundred friends on their social networks, however a select few will have a much higher number and therefore skew the average.

This then leads to people having “increased levels of dissatisfaction”, the study argues.

Bollen et al wrote: “The effects of this friendship paradox may extend beyond popularity. If popular individuals tend to be happier, their elevated happiness will become more prevalent as well.

“This may in turn lead to a happiness paradox, where most individuals are less happy than their friends on average.

“In fact, the latter may contribute more directly to the negative psycho-social effects of social networking since it affects how individuals assess their own Subjective Well-being, i.e. general happiness or life satisfaction, relative to that of others.”

Findings from this study said that the friendship paradox was present among the Twitter users studied and that the majority were less popular than their friends.

However, it also found that the happiness paradox was at play as well, and that the few extra-happy people adjusted the average.

This led participants to be generally more glum than their connections on social media.

Researchers used an algorithm to analyse the happiness levels of 3,000 tweets sent by 40,000 people, based on how positive or negative it assumed them to be.

They also looked at how many connections people had on Twitter, and used the data to determine their popularity and happiness, and if there was a correlation between the two.

The researchers concluded: “First, the correlation between happiness and popularity is lowest for individuals in the unhappy group.

“A happiness paradox can result from a friendship paradox when popularity and happiness are correlated, since more popular and thus more prevalent individuals will increase the average happiness of ones circle of friends.

“As a result, the unhappy group, with the lowest correlation between popularity and happiness, should experience the lowest happiness paradox.

“Second, the strong assortativity of happiness in our social network reduces the prevalence of happy subjects in the social network circle of unhappy subjects.

“Therefore, it should be easier for individuals in this group to surpass the average happiness of their friends.”

Find out more about this study here.