You couldn't imagine living without the Internet. But would you actually be happier in a less connected world?
Fully 90 percent of people say the Internet has been a good thing for them personally. But the answer to whether or not that means they're happier, healthier or more satisfied with their lives takes a little more untangling.
The folks over at Happify, an app that features games and activities geared toward improving emotional wellbeing, compiled some of the best recent data on how technology can boost or challenge our happiness.
Consider, for example, that while most people report being treated kindly online, a quarter of people say they have been attacked or bullied. And that 74 percent of couples say that the Internet has had a positive effect on their marriages, but 38 percent report that (for better or worse) online communication makes them less likely to rely exclusively on their partners as confidants.
When it comes to bringing people together, though, the web gets mostly good reviews. Sixty-seven percent of Internet users say that email, texting and social networking has strengthened their relationships with family and friends. And 56 percent say they have borne witness to people rallying together online to help someone else, as exemplified by such touching stories as the movement to "wear yellow for Seth," the boy with no immune system, the $100,ooo raised to buy a car for a Detroit man who walked 21 miles to work, and the viral photo that got Chester the dog adopted after five harsh years in a shelter.
How does social media affect the 74 percent of adults who use it? As you'd guess, it's complicated. Social media users are, not surprisingly, less likely to be socially isolated. They're also more likely to feel a sense of support and are more trusting (which might help explain the preponderance of Facebook hoaxes). On the flip side, social networking is linked to feelings of envy, lower self-esteem and an overall decrease in life satisfaction.
As Happify's infographic below shows, little tweaks in how you use it can make a big difference.