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Facebook doesn’t make us happier, espe­cially when 63 percent of Amer­icans consult it for news on an election that fea­tures the least popular can­di­dates since the advent of sci­en­tific polling. But while Facebook is a symptom of America’s col­lective political fatigue, the platform can cure it as well, by encour­aging users to increase their political activity in their local com­mu­nities.

The Pew Research Center per­formed a series of polls that showed Amer­icans increas­ingly use Facebook as a news source and political platform. This increase in usage comes at a cost: The Hap­piness Research Institute found too much Facebook has a neg­ative impact on our hap­piness.

In its “The Facebook Exper­iment” in 2015, the Institute ran­domly chose 1,095 Danes to evaluate their lives and their use of Facebook. Unsur­pris­ingly, 94 percent reported vis­iting Facebook as a daily routine. Of the 94 percent of Danes on Facebook, 86 percent reported browsing their news feed often and 78 percent reported spending 30 minutes or more on the site every day. Researchers asked one half of the par­tic­i­pants to quit using Facebook for one week and reevaluate their lives.

People who abstained from the social media platform for one week reported feeling happier, more decisive, more enthu­si­astic, more sat­isfied with their social lives, less worried, less stressed, less angry, less depressed and less lonely. This is good news, espe­cially for the 62 – 66 percent of Amer­icans whom Gallup reports are dis­sat­isfied with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

So it seems like posting and inter­acting with sta­tuses, photos, videos and articles don’t make us happy. That’s because Facebook doesn’t allow us to practice pol­itics, which also involves human inter­action in a local context.

One of the first things we learn at Hillsdale is that we are political animals: human beings who thrive in geo­graph­i­cally limited com­mu­nities knit together with human inter­action. But Facebook has changed the rules. It has expanded the scope of our world and demanded us to care about people, places and things way outside of our social sit­u­ation while simul­ta­ne­ously stripping us of real human inter­action. When we do Facebook pol­itics, the actions are shallow: posting, reacting, com­menting and sharing. It’s no wonder Facebook leaves us feeling less decisive, less enthu­si­astic and lonelier. We aren’t truly ful­filling the human com­ponent of pol­itics, which is much richer than a political stance online.

The good news is you don’t have to cut out Facebook com­pletely — just make sure it deepens, rather than replaces, your com­munity inter­action. The Pew Research Center found that intensive Facebook users, par­tic­u­larly those par­tic­i­pating in spe­cific groups, are more likely to attend political meetings and rallies. Hillsdale Hot Debates, Over­heard at Hillsdale College, Van­ished Hillsdale and the Hillsdale Col­legian are all active Facebook pages that can help you connect with stu­dents and towns­people, stay up-to-date on town issues and deepen your rela­tionship with the com­munity — in short, they can help you interact with and change local pol­itics.

The sign change has unified stu­dents with towns­people by forcing us stu­dents to reevaluate what makes our com­munity special. “It’s the people” reminds us that pol­itics is about a sense of duty to place and to the people who inhabit it. Because pol­itics is more than just your opinion on Trump, Clinton and America’s future, and your polis is more than just your news feed.

 

Kroeker is a senior studying French and jour­nalism.