Does Twittering Make You Happy?

The theme for tonight’s Social Media Club Amsterdam was “the influence of social networking on your level of happiness”.

The presentation came from Philip de Wulf of Het Leefritme Kenniscentrum (The Life-Rhythm Knowledge Centre – it does sound better in Dutch) who have researched this question.

They’ve come to some interesting conclusions; people who are happiest are either very involved in social media, or not at all involved. They haven’t yet researched why this might be, but one suggestion from the audience was that since happiness seems to come easiest to people who have control or autonomy in their lives perhaps these two groups show that – one by committing to social media, one by opting out.

There was an interesting discussion around the meaning of the word friend, which came about because “unfriend” was word of the year for 2009. The consensus seemed to be that this could only be the word of the year because social media has, in a sense, devalued the value of “friend”, and most people were clear that they would never “unfriend” a real friend in real life.

But almost everyone in the room saw real value in virtual friendships, with a couple of people commenting that at some point you may feel the drive to meet these real friends. I agree with both statements; last year I contributed to a wedding of a virtual friend who was stuck between visa limits, no job and no close family – I may never meet her. I also flew to Prague to meet up with 3 virtual friends.

Social Dimensions

Like all good consultants they have come up with a two-by-two matrix that neatly divides the world into four types – something like the graph at right.

Focused relators aren’t necessary lonely according the Philip de Wulf, just they focus on a smaller group of contacts. The virtual connectors are highly active online, but less visible as social at real world events. Traditional socials are active at real events, but not so active online. The group under discussion is the “new open socials” which was about 25% of the research subjects but about 90% of the audience.

The question was posed “will new open socials encounter a culture shock in the workplace?”. I’m not sure, even my company – a rather conservative financial services company – is trying to find ways to make work more 2.0, and for many roles I would see “new open socials” has having an advantage in new ways of hiring and working.

I think I’m probably in the group “new open socials” so I might be biased, but I find the social media tools fun to use in themselves and it has help me maintain and build relationships – sometimes across the world, through it I will see photos of my nephew when he arrives in summer, because of it I get to share the ideas on communication with quirky experts. So for me social media does contribute to my happiness.

So does twittering make you happy?

The third Social Media Club Amsterdam Meeting will take place on 17 February and registration is already open for it.

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