Click above to view the magazine. The social media portion is on pages 18-19.

Click above to view the magazine. The social media portion is on pages 18-19.

My undergraduate alumni magazine arrived the other day with an interesting article about the science of happiness, a research area of several psychologists at the University of California at Riverside (UCR). The article listed ten areas of focus, including dispelling the myths of what makes you happy, being positive, thinking big, and sleeping more. What caught my attention was number 10: “Get Connected on Social Media.”

I guess I always knew connecting on social media played some role in modern happiness. After all, would we engage on media if there was nothing in it for ourselves? It’s a win-win situation: you get as you give. You even feel you get far more than you give when that one timely connection solves a critical problem, offers sage advice, or provides vital information that would have taken hours or days to find on your own. Feeling alone? Connect. Need advice? Connect. And be there for others when they need that connection too.

In my own experience, connecting with others has certainly enhanced my job satisfaction. It’s also enriched my professional career in ways I continue to discover, including having spontaneous conversations with thought leaders in learning and development without leaving my office and connecting to professionals in my growing personal learning network any time of day or night. Whether you work alone or as a member of a large team, social networking pays huge dividends.

But what did the researchers at UCR find? Professor Donna Hoffman is quoted as saying, “It’s clear that (engaging on) social media is not only an activity that appeals to the troubled and lonely but also has the potential to meet people’s fundamental needs in some positive and important ways.” Fundamental needs, wow. Hoffman goes on to say that it’s not surprising that people are more likely to feel related to others when interacting on social media, but when they use those media for content-focused activity (learning new things was specifically mentioned), “the behavior also has the potential to trigger a feeling of connectedness.”

The short portion of the article dedicated to social media concludes that the work of Hoffman and colleague Tom Novak shows that connecting online leads to, “positive outcomes like happiness and satisfaction.” It adds, “This suggests that the reasons people use social media have a large impact on whether these uses will lead to positive outcomes.”

I wonder though, are we paying enough attention to the communication skills needed to effectively engage with others on social media? Any medium that masks body language, facial expression, and especially tone of voice puts that much more emphasis on writing skills. Are some individuals or groups at a significant disadvantage? That’s another thing I’ve been thinking about for some time, and I’ll be writing on that soon. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading!


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