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Study Finds Happy People Are More Authentic on Facebook

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Online and off, people are happier when they feel truly seen and heard. It’s not rocket science. But what happens when your “true self” and the self you present online are two different people? According to a report published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, people with gaps between their Facebook selves and their real selves are more likely to feel isolated and stressed than people who keep it real.

Studies have found that having our true selves acknowledged and validated in person is linked to happiness and better self-esteem. To find out if the same was true for online interactions, researchers at the University of Tasmania recruited 164 Australian Facebook users, three-quarters of them female, and asked them to take a series of questionnaires. To make the participants feel comfortable being honest about their online lives, all of their information was anonymized. 

The survey session was bookended by two personality tests. In the first, users answered questions about their true selves—the aspects of their personality that are most important to their identity. At the end, the participants answered the same survey, but this time, the survey concerned their online personas. In between, they completed tests designed to measure depression, social isolation or connectedness, anxiety, stress, and overall wellbeing. 

The researchers found that people who presented the same face to the world online and off were better off than people who hid their true selves online. People who stayed true online were significantly more likely to feel socially connected and less likely to be stressed.

The study was relatively small and most of the participants were young, which means these results can’t be generalized to include everyone everywhere. Also important to note: This study found an association, not a causation. It could be that being yourself on Facebook makes you happier; it could also be that people who are happier feel more comfortable sharing their happy lives. Or, as the researchers write, "it is possible that by presenting oneself authentically on Facebook, less emotional labor is required, therefore resulting in less stress."  

Research on posts, profiles, and likes might seem frivolous until you think about the amount of time we spend on social media and the weight we place on our interactions there. And its importance is only growing, says Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking editor Brenda K. Wiederhold, who was not involved with the study. “The current world population is 7.4 billion, and as of the second quarter of 2016, active Facebook users totaled 1.7 billion,” Weiderhold said in a press statement. “As such, we must consider how Facebook may serve as a tool to positively impact our patients' lives."

Know of something you think we should cover? Email us at tips@mentalfloss.com.

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Humblebraggarts Are the Worst (Science Says So)
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Humblebraggarts. We all know (at least) one: that person who takes a woe-is-me tack to ostensibly "complain" about something when the real intent is to boast.

"It's noon, I haven't had a cup of coffee, and the espresso machine at this Mercedes dealer is broken. FML!"

"Have been sitting on the runway for 30 minutes. Next time I'm flying commercial instead of private."

In many ways, it's another version of #FirstWorldProblems, and social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have only made the practice more pervasive. As TIME reports, a new study has concluded that people see right through this fake humility—and like people less for doing it.

Researchers at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a series of nine experiments, including a week-long diary study and a field experiment, to both identify the ubiquity of the behavior and then determine its effectiveness as a form of self-presentation. Their findings, which were published in the January Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, determined that if you're going to brag, people would rather you just be transparent about it.

"It's such a common phenomenon," Ovul Sezer, study co-author and an assistant professor of organizational behavior at UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School, told TIME. "All of us know some people in our lives, whether in social media or in the workplace, who do this annoying thing. You think, as the humblebragger, that it's the best of both worlds, but what we show is that sincerity is actually the key ingredient."

Of the 646 participants, 70 percent of them could recall a recent humblebrag they'd heard—the majority of which (about 60 percent) were complaint-based. But the study showed, overwhelmingly, that any statements that could be perceived as humblebragging (whether complaint- or humility-based) "are less effective than straightforward bragging, as they reduce liking, perceived competence, compliance with requests, and financial generosity," according to the study's authors.

"Despite the belief that combining bragging with complaining or humility confers the benefits of each strategy," the study concluded, "we find that humblebragging confers the benefits of neither, instead backfiring because it is seen as insincere.”

In other words: they're not fooling anyone.

"If you want to announce something, go with the brag and at least own your self-promotion and reap the rewards of being sincere, rather than losing in all dimensions," Sezer said—though she suggested that an even more effective tactic is to find someone else to boast on your behalf. "If someone brags for you, that's the best thing that can happen to you, because then you don't seem like you're bragging," she told TIME.

However, Sezer's final piece of advice was not to be too hasty in your dismissal of humblebraggarts as a whole. "We all do it, to some extent," she said. "I hope I don't sound like I'm humblebragging when I talk about this research."

[h/t: TIME]

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Can You Figure Out Why the Turtles Bulge in This Optical Illusion?
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Ready for a little vision test? Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a Kyoto-based psychologist who studies visual illusions, created this eye-bending image that appears to bulge and bend. In the image, shared on Syfy.com, the horizontal and vertical lines actually run straight across and down, but they look like they ripple, and the shapes (Kitaoka calls them turtles) look like they’re different shades of gray, even though they’re an identical color.

As Phil Plait explains for Syfy, the key is in the corners—the turtle “legs,” if you will. “At each vertex between turtles, they form a rotated square divided into four smaller squares," he writes. "Note how they're offset from one another, giving a twist to the vertices.” If you zoom in closely on the image, the lines begin to straighten out.

The difference in the colors, meanwhile, is a result of the contrast between the black and white pixels outlining the turtles. If the outlines of the turtles were entirely black or entirely white, instead of a combination, the grays would look identical. But the contrast between the two fools your eyes into thinking they're different.

To see more of Kitaoka’s illusion art, you can follow him on Twitter @AkiyoshiKitaoka. Then, go check out these other amazing optical illusions.

[h/t Syfy]

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