The Upside of Sharing Your Down Times

On the whole, people assume that those around them lead happier lives than they themselves do. Dartmouth psychology fellow Alex Jordan noticed that his friends, when logging onto Facebook, became depressed about their own lives. Everyone else seemed to be happier, more successful, and more active. Jordan began to explore and research the differences between how we perceive others’ quality of life and how life actually feels to them. As discussed in this article, time and time again, people rated others’ lives as higher quality and their own lives as lower quality. They thought that others had more fun at parties, had more active social lives, and had fewer problems and negative emotions.

What this research illuminates is not simply that we view others’ lives positively; it’s that we don’t really know what’s going on in the lives of those around us. Few of us share the negative emotions we’re experiencing. People don’t talk about needing to find a therapist to deal with their depression or anger management, about going to grief counseling after the loss of a parent, or about feeling distant from their spouse. We share the things we’re proud of, the things we want others to see. As a result of this filtering, our lives look more perfect from the outside than they actually are, and since others’ lives look better, too, we think that we’re alone in our struggles.

“Paradoxically,” said the study’s co-author Benoît Monin, “if we told others how unhappy we are, we would probably all be happier in the long run.” We’d know each other better, feel less alone in our problems, and be able to offer mutual support for the things we’re going through. Therapy is very effective for overcoming any number of mental and emotional hurdles, but it’s even more effective when there’s social support between sessions.


Susan Young (2010). Sharing in sorrow might make us happier, study shows. Web. 31 August 11.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • runninfast


    December 28th, 2010 at 5:36 AM

    Look I have been around long enough to know that the grass is not always greener on the other side. It may appear to be greener but it is not. Do not look to others to find out what you are missing but rather look and see all of the things that you have to be thankful for in your own life. If you live life always comparing to what others have then you will never be fulfilled. You will constantly think that someone else has more or has it better and this is usually not the case. Just think- they are probably looking at your life and thinking the same thing about you!

  • franco


    December 28th, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Every family and relationship has its peaks and troughs and that includes friends. It’s just that not all are wanting to share them publicly and you can’t get more public than a Facebook page.

  • Leah


    December 28th, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    Facebook has privacy settings where you can make some or all of your updates available to everybody or only friends, or friends of friends last I looked. What you see on their public page and updates is them putting their best foot forward. They never know who’s going to look at it. Of course they want to present themselves in their best light.

  • Alex


    December 28th, 2010 at 12:18 PM

    It’s also as important to listen as it is to ask. When we’re sitting in the doctor’s office and feeling shocked, it’s hard to concentrate past the words of the diagnosis. When my sister was diagnosed with cancer, all I heard was that word ringing in my ears. “Cancer. cancer.cancer.” I came out of there with her having missed half of what the doctor had said after that.

  • Cody


    December 28th, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    We humans have always had this thought that others are leading a mcj better and comfrrable life than we are. This is plainly because of our greed of more things and material. That is why we are always looking out at who is buying what and how.

  • Christine


    December 28th, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    How can we all get to the point of being happy with ourselves and not worrying about comparing ourselves to other people? That all begins at home, with teaching your kids to be happy with who they are. Self esteem can be so hard to come by but when developed at an early age it can be such a positive thing.

  • Debbie


    December 28th, 2010 at 6:08 PM

    Some conversations, whether with a therapist or a close friend, are best when done face-to-face. I wouldn’t discuss my personal life worries on Facebook although I’d be happy to meet up with a friendly ear in person and talk.

  • riley


    December 28th, 2010 at 8:46 PM

    It wouldn’t bother me to talk about my issues on Facebook. I’m very open about my marriage difficulties and that we’re in counseling. I don’t think it’s the most appropriate place to share that, that’s all but to each their own.

  • Erica


    December 28th, 2010 at 9:24 PM

    With the recent formation of Facebook Groups, I’d bet there’s a Group related to depression support there. The Groups have privacy settings too.I’d sooner post in a private group than on my Wall.

  • Goblin


    December 28th, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    Having somebody to comfort you when you are down is a great thing and such a friend is a great asset.Not many people have such friends and family and those who do need to value it.



    December 29th, 2010 at 4:39 AM

    The grass does seem to be greener on the other side, it’s natural human tendency to believe so but then we need to tell ourselves that the other people would have problem to be going through too.

  • Hannah


    December 29th, 2010 at 5:56 AM

    @ riley I so agree with you! Facebook should not be the place to be sharing all of these things but some people put their lives right out there on their facebook walls for everyone to see. I guess I am a little more private than that because I do not always want everyone that I know all up in my business. But facebook has done away with that sense of privacy that many of us have cherished for so long now. They have not taken it away by force but we have allowed the social networks to do that and now I am afraid that there will never be any going back.

  • Carol


    December 29th, 2010 at 10:45 AM

    I treat my Facebook account more as an arena to share fun stuff than anything. Sure I’m going to look like I haven’t a care in the world! I don’t talk about my worries on it and neither do most folks. Facebook pages present a distorted view of their, and my, reality.It’s like a postcard to your gran. You want it to be light and positive.

  • Gary


    December 29th, 2010 at 2:21 PM

    If you want to know precisely how happy your friends are with their lives, there’s a surefire way to find out: go the low tech route and just ask them next time you see them!

  • Lynette


    December 29th, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    I wouldn’t announce on my Facebook page I was seeking help for depression and not because I’m ashamed of that because I most certainly am not. It’s because I wouldn’t want to worry my parents who live aboard. Parents visit Facebook pages too, remember. I’d rather keep that information to myself and tell them once I’m better.

  • Rob


    December 30th, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    I’m stunned by how much very personal information people are ready to share on Facebook and the likes of them. Doesn’t anyone keep themselves to themselves anymore? I prefer to play my cards close to my chest.

  • Sandy


    December 30th, 2010 at 8:10 PM

    If that’s how they view their friends, they need a reality check. The owner’s rose-colored glasses are tinting their Facebook page. How much is truth and how much is lies each reader can decide for themselves but don’t take it all at face value.

  • Jamie


    December 30th, 2010 at 9:40 PM

    I’ve heard of students who purposely beefed up their Facebook account to make their lifestyle and themselves appear more attractive to potential employers. They’re aware companies will check their Facebook profile. Drunken party pics and innuendo filled comments are removed, replaced with chatter about sweet family outings and talk of how much they love their mom and do good deeds. Rule numero uno of the internet: if it looks too good to be true, it is.

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