Facebook is for losers

A while since I posted this but the evidence all suggests that using social media can make you feel inadequate by comparing yourself with artificially inflated/enhanced profiles & pictures or number of people who like you.

Mike the Psych's Blog

figure_bed_computer_1600_wht_14033Most people who use Facebook do so to add positive updates but generally people who use Facebook tend to be more frustrated, angry and lonely.

This might be because positive updates from their “friends” make them feel inadequate.

Now researchers at Ohio University have discovered that people in a bad mood turn to social network sites and look up people less attractive or less successful than themselves rather than those more attractive and more successful.

Given a choice of profiles to look at on a new social networking link called SocialLink participants who had been put in a negative state of mind – by being given poor feedback on a test – spent more time looking at the profiles of people who were less attractive and less successful.

The message is if you’re feeling bad look for someone who’s feeling even worse and regain your emotional superiority.



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Facebook can be used against you

dislike_ink_stamp_1600_wht_9113If you publicise your extravagant social activities on Facebook and other social media you run the risk of it being held against you.

Not just in your career (about which I have posted previously elsewhere) but in getting a mortgage or a loan .

A new company called Big Data Scoring is offering its services to banks and other financial organisations and says there has been a lot of interest.

It uses models and algorithms to predict the likelihood you will default on a loan based on thousands of data points including social media, blogs, web pages you have visited and information available on google.

Lenders ask permission from Facebook account holders to access the information as part of the loan application.”This is not as stalkerish as it sounds.We don’t look at the photographs or read people’s messages. We focus on the overall nature of the profile – how active people are on Facebook, what sort of activity is it, what do they like and what it says about their personalities. (During R & D) we have spotted important aspects that help to predict one’s credit behaviour

The company CEO gives an example of someone who is extremely active on Facebook even in working hours, someone who responds to every ad campaign, someone who is forever updating their relationships status on the wall, or is playing games all day.

Compare that with someone who uses social media to keep in touch with old friends, who only logs in after work and not much at the weekend, and who knows responding to ad campaigns only leads to spam mail. Which is the more trustworthy person?

They say they never give the lenders an absolute statement about someone’s credit rating but just give a probability of whether or not the person will default.  If you are one of the 25% of 18-29 year olds who’ve been turned down for a loan then that’s just a question of semantics.

Another credit scoring company is Experian which doesn’t use big data relying instead on the electoral register, public government records, and transactions from financial companies to predict how people will behave with regard to payments and debts.

They think that the data exhaust you leave behind in your transactions with organisations and their customer service departments are more relevant than your social media footprint.

However Experian concedes that social media may be useful in emerging markets where there is little financial information or credit history scoring is not available about a person.

Other companies such as those helping new start-ups or self-employed people say their lending criteria will be based on social media accounts one even claiming that you can tell a lot about a person (and presumably their trustworthiness) from the clothes they wear in their online photographs.

So you have been warned!

Facebook and social media have been used to catch speeding motorists in India, draft dodgers in Israel, fraudulent insurance claims, and are scrutinised by divorce lawyers in America and the UK.

On the positive side insurance companies which trawl social media sites to snoop on customers could be facing a crackdown by the City watchdog. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been examining how insurers use information gathered from the internet to set premiums.

Social meda sites including Linkedin and supermarket loyalty schemes generate reams of personal information which can be used by institutions to assess risk but consumers are worried about it being used in this way. An investigation by the FCA could lead to tougher rules being introduced this year.

Could companies use your supermarket loyalty card to assess your lifestyle – all that booze you keep buying – and your life insurance liability? The Association of British Insurers says big data could make insurance work better for customers and they treat personal data very sensitively.

As I said before – you have been warned!

If you want to be happier – ditch Facebook!

stick_figure_liking_it_500_wht_9170Research from The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen in Denmark (one of the happiest countries in the world) has found that giving up your Facebook account boosts happiness and reduces anger and loneliness.

Life satisfaction rose significantly in the space of a week when participants were unable to read the updates of their friends. The institute was surprised by the changes in such a short time and wants to raise awareness on the influence of social media on feelings of fulfilment.

Facebook and other social media sites are “a constant flow of edited lives which distort our view of reality” it said in its report The Facebook Experiment.

They recruited over a thousand people in Denmark and asked half of them to avoid Facebook for a week. Participants were asked to rate their life satisfaction on a scale of 1 to 10 before and after the experiment.

Those who continued to use Facebook (the control group) scored an average of 7.67 before and 7.75 afterwards.

Those who gave up Facebook scored 7.56 before and 8.12 afterwards. They also reported an increase in “real world social activity” and were less angry and less lonely than those who had continued to use Facebook. 88% of them declared themselves happy compared to 81% pf Facebook regulars and 84% said they were enjoying life compared to 75% of Facebook regulars.

The head of the Institute, Meik Wiking, said “We have known for some time that social comparisons matter when it comes to life satisfaction. So we thought, let’s see whether we can detect a Facebook effect because of this constant bombardment of great news happening to other people. Every time you look someone is getting married or has a great job in New York or having a holiday in Tahiti. How does this affect our perception of reality and how we value our own lives?”

The research found that the Facebook effect had roughly half the impact on life satisfaction as attributed to the disparity in income between the richest and poorest 10% of the population.

Wiking urged Facebook users to share more of their failures and disappointments. “We hope the experiment helped to highlight the negative impact of being bombarded with a distorted reality”

Facebook has been used previously for social research. In 2013 a paper was produced about emotional contagion (see summary below). In essence a sample of almost 700,000 Facebook users were fed either or negative news.

We show, via a massive (N = 689,003) experiment on Facebook, that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. We provide experimental evidence that emotional contagion occurs without direct interaction between people (exposure to a friend expressing an emotion is sufficient), and in the complete absence of nonverbal cues.

There was an issue about lack of informed consent as Facebook users weren’t told about it (but Zuckerberg doesn’t care about your privacy).

And this idea of “friends” on Facebook is stretching the meaning of the word in an increasingly narcissistic society where what others think of you is, sadly, more important than what you think of yourself (See So many Friends….)

Mixed results for peer support when you are trying to be slimmer

women_group_clapping_500_wht_12480First of all dieters. I’ve repeated often enough that diets only work for about 10% of those who go on them, maybe 20% if we’re being generous.

recent report suggests women have tried 61 diets by the age of 45.

The best ones rely on peer support or group pressure, whichever way you want to look at it. But new research from universities in the USA and China has found that while groups such as WeightWatchers tend to be very supportive at first, they become more competitive and less likely to share tips as they become slimmer and progress towards their goal.

When consumers start working towards a goal they often feel uncertain about how to achieve the goal and see others at a similar stage as friends. They pass on helpful tips and cheer each other on.”

As they progress however they feel more confident and believe they don’t need the support from others so they become distant and keep information to themselves. At that stage only 42% said they were still providing tips and support compared with almost 80% at the start of the programme.

As the support network breaks down dieters who depended on mutual support are more likely to give up. Group weigh-ins and discussions became less sociable as the groups progressed and members grew more confident about their ability to lose weight with support.

The same problem could also apply to other group-based support programmes

The challenge is for group leaders to find ways of keeping the members engaged and preventing them giving up on their goals.

Secondly fitness programmes. Researchers at University College London found that the third week in January is when New Year resolutions start to waver. 

Using data from Facebook they found that the number of people checking in at locations with “fitness” or “gym” in the name is 10% lower in February than at the beginning of January.

January sees a 50% surge in such check-ins compared to December. As it takes 66 days to make a resolution stick and create a habit only those who stick at it until March will be successful in continuing to keep fit.

According to psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer at New York University the key to success is not to brag about it. Those who tell their friends about their goal believe they are half-way there whereas those who keep quiet about their intentions are forced to prove them through action.

Not sure I agree with that but it shows that getting fit or losing weight is as much about your state of mind, your focus, and your goal-setting as the actual activity you undertake. Having supportive friends is, I feel important, but once you start competing with them you may lose their support.


Don’t “friend” your doctor or your kids’ teachers

doctor_shows_the_way_to_a_woman_1600_wht_8489It will end in tears , or worse.

Young doctors are apparently having trouble being objective and truthful with patients because they are blurring the boundaries between their personal and professional relationship.

These doctors are allowing patients to call them by their first name, be a friend on Facebook and even greet them with a hug.

They have now been warned that overstepping boundaries could lead to charges of violating professional guidance.

Once they have become friends it’s harder to have difficult conversations and break bad news. More than half of doctors surveyed said they had trouble telling the truth to patients they liked. and felt that if they were too empathetic they couldn’t make difficult decisions.

Half of the doctors surveyed had given patients their personal numbers, a fifth had accepted social invitations from patients, and 14% had accepted them on Facebook! What are they thinking!

Doctors are encourage to be more empathetic with patients but, as Professor Fallowfield from Brighton and Sussex medical school said, a pat on the arm is sufficient.

A spokeswomen for the General Medical Council said that “the rise in social media also brings new challenges and doctors must consider the risks involved and the impact it could have on the relationship with patients. Our guidance explains that the standards expected of doctors doesn’t change because they are communicating through social media rather than face-to-face”.

It’s not just doctors either. Some therapists and social workers introduce themselves to patients by their first name. I noticed at a treatment centre this week thats as nurses came out to call in patients they more often than not used a first name. Mine called me by my full name and that’s fine. Let’s have a friendly face but some clinical detachment.

And teachers have a special responsibility for your children when they are at school but that doesn’t mean you have to be  friends with them. You wouldn’t want your kids to be singled out as a teacher’s pet or not be given objective feedback abut their progress would you?

They say “fences make good neighbours”; maybe maintaining professional boundaries ensure a better quality service for us too.

Competitive & obsessed with social media – a mum’s life today?

talking_social_media_1600_wht_9159Well it is according to parenting web-site BabyCentre.

They surveyed around 2,000 mums and found three out of four millennial mums i.e. aged 18 to 32, spent 8 hours a day on their smart phone, tablet or computer.

Almost half of them admitted buying something after seeing someone in their social network following a particular brand and more than half admitted they were influenced by comments pasted on Facebook.

The managing director of BabyCentre said “Millennial mums said they found motherhood really tough with all the competitiveness and accepted that they’re bringing it upon themselves by their prolific sharing of photographs and baby moments online. There is competitiveness over first milestones from first words to when their children can count to ten. It also includes the brand of buggy and the size and design of footwear”

Some mums in the survey said they felt pressured to take their children to swimming classes or music lessons so as not to be considered a bad mum.

Seems everyone wants to be an Alpha Mum and yet they rely on Facebook and other social networks to make decisions.

The statistics quoted from this survey seems unbelievable yet when did you last see a young woman without a smartphone in her hand? Millennial mums spend about twice the time  on their mobile phones as Generation X (born in mid-60s to mid-80s) and half bought something on-line every week. A clear case of smartphone addiction or Nomophobia

If they spent less time on social media they would feel less pressured and have more time for their babies and real friends.


The Science of Friendship

Reality Swipe


A scientific insight into the best way to make friends.


How many friends do you have? In the social media era we find ourselves in, sites like Facebook make it far easier to quantify than it ever has been. The internet does a fantastic job of giving you a daily summery of the amount of friends you have, but while fantastically precise, it cannot quite capture the real ‘magic’ behind what you get in a friendship. While Oscar Wild brilliantly claimed that true friends are people who would, “stab you in the front” personally, I believe C.S. Lewis described the connection with another person better when he said, “it is one of those things that gives value to survival.” Even on them few occasions they drive us so mad that we feel like we could not live with our friends, deep down we know, we couldn’t live without…

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