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What’s not to ‘like’?
How online ‘friends’ and social media sites can make you happy

06/05/14
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



 Last week, Boston Globe magazine published an article about how social media can ruin your life. Around the same time, CBS released a similar story, about how Facebook over-sharers tend to be lonely. 

In fact, this year alone, The New Yorker, NPR, CNN and many other news sources have published stories about how Facebook can become a sewer of unhappiness.
But some people, like Tyler Gutierrez, who runs social media at Dyn Inc., think Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest aren’t all bad.
They say there are reasons we love perusing family photos, tales of friends’ vacations and party ideas through online networks. They help us keep in touch with the people we love, and they put the ideas we enjoy — how to cook healthier, run more efficiently, squeeze a meditation in during your lunch break — right at our fingertips. 
Gutierrez thinks some of the studies cited in the “social media is bad” stories are a bit out of date anyway. You can do so many things on social media today you couldn’t a year ago, he said.
For instance, there’s a new app called Happier, which is like Twitter for happy moments, where users share the small moments on it that brighten their day. Kickstarter, Meetup and GoFundMe, he said, are arguably social media sites for positive projects.
“I think there are a lot of social media platforms out there that are focused on positive changes. They connect people with similar interests. I think we miss a lot of that in the news, and we don’t see that as much as we do the negative effects,” Gutierrez said. (His favorite social media platform: Instagram, which helps hone his love of photography.)
Social media can make you happier. It’s just a matter of using it the right way.
“It’s a dichotomy, as most things are,” said Debra LeClair of Full Spectrum Wellness in Bedford. “It can make people feel like they belong, and it can make them feel like they’re connected to other living beings, which is very important.” 
LeClair is a life coach, psychologist and meditation instructor, among other things. But she’s had many clients come to her with problems regarding social media, too.
“The downside is that there are so many social media sites. … You also see what your acquaintances and friends are doing, and you may feel you have to match them. Or maybe something uncomfortable gets posted,” LeClair said. “Then there’s the idea that people are less connected with what’s in front of them, more connected to their phones. … It can breed obsession.”
LeClair thinks it’s a matter of stepping back and asking yourself: where is social media enhancing your life? And where is it taking over? If social media has become an obsession, get to the bottom of why you feel you have to be on Facebook or Twitter so often — is it insecurity? jealousy? not wanting to appear to have a boring life? — and move on from there. 
“Make boundaries,” LeClair said. “Decide what you really want to use it for.”
LeClair prefers using it to follow her favorite writers, politicians and spiritual leaders. Many of her clients find that utilizing Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can help them in their journey to becoming healthier — just so long as they gauge it to their needs.
“I might share a link about recent research on meditation, a YouTube video about meditation. As a tool, it can be very helpful. People tell me that having that information online, at their fingertips, makes all the difference in the world,” LeClair said.
Today, people are using it in their athletic endeavors too; outside work, Kate Luczko of Stay Work Play is a Pinterest pro, and it helps feed her running goals. Through Pinterest, she’s gathered a working knowledge on how to get in shape for a race, which stretches to perform before and after her runs, what breathing techniques to use and what to stick on her running playlist.
(In fact, this use is quite common; Becky Brown, the senior account executive at Montagne Communications, said she also uses social media to better herself as a runner, most recently to learn how to prep for a long run. There are also apps like MapMyRun and RunKeeper, which allow you to connect with other users and share your milestones.)
“You have to be mindful when it comes to using any sort of social media,” Luczko said, “But I think Pinterest is 99 percent positive. … I think with Facebook, you can use it as a place to vent, but Pinterest isn’t like that.”
She pointed out local businesses — like Wake Robin Farm in Stratham — that have used social media in helping to make customers happier. The farm’s Pinterest page is clustered with photos and recipes that use the beef, beans, vegetables and fruit sold at the farm. 
She uses the platform for recipes, too; the site makes it easier to find and organize the information that makes her happy, and thus, easier to find it again when she wants to use it in real time.
Brown agrees. 
“I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a few others, for my own personal use and for work. Personally, I think social media is a great way to gain knowledge. … It helps you to learn new ideas, maintain relationships and grow your networking base, which I think makes me happier,” Brown said. 
 
As seen in the June 5, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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