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Facebook: Getting engaged makes women unhappy

By Wendy Atterberry, The Frisky
The thrill of being engaged may fade under the pressure of planning a wedding, experts say.
The thrill of being engaged may fade under the pressure of planning a wedding, experts say.
  • Study finds women not-so-happy after getting engagement ring
  • Two researchers gathered data from Facebook status updates
  • After wedding, women's negativity lessens, men's negativity increases

(The Frisky) -- One would think that becoming engaged would make a woman happy, right? Well, if status updates on Facebook are any indication -- and at least two research scientists say they are -- that theory is all wrong.

Cameron Marlow and D.J. Patil spend their days tracking trends on Facebook where the roughly 400 million users give them a totally unprecedented insight into human behavior.

Together, they study what Facebook calls the "Gross National Happiness Index," an application "that measures the positive and negative sentiments expressed in status posts," and what they've discovered is that becoming engaged makes women less happy than they were before getting engaged.

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"Maybe this is the effect of having to plan a wedding," Marlow told the San Francisco Chronicle in an article ("Researchers Study Behavior in Social Networks") that ran on May 12. "While the process of being engaged is stressful for women, once you're married, then in general, you're less negative than you were before. But if you're a man, then something else changes, it increases the negativity. These fit the gender stereotypes so perfectly that it's almost uncanny."

Facebook's "Gross National Happiness" prototype app

As someone who has wasted too much time perusing a popular website that pokes fun at status updates from people who are happily -- often annoyingly so -- coupled up, I kind of have a hard time believing these findings. It's all, "Ooh, another lovely evening at home waiting for the pizza delivery and watching my husband clip his toenails!" And: "I'm getting marrriiieeeeed, suckas!"

Whether these people are truly happy or just want people to think they are is open for debate, but I have a hard time believing they're illustrating "negative" tendencies. Then again, I deleted my Facebook account months ago, so maybe I'm simply missing out on the "woe is me" updates from the newly engaged and married.

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Another finding the researchers have discovered is that "being in an open relationship 'is uniformly bad,' decreasing positive feelings by 15 percent compared with single people." Interestingly, it's women who are actually less negative about open relationships than their male counterparts. Who would have though that?

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On a different note, it's a little creepy that people on Facebook -- all 400 million of you -- are unwitting participants in these research studies, isn't it? As if there weren't already enough performance anxiety when writing one's status update. Now you've got to write about what you had for lunch and worry about what researchers think that says about your happiness level.

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