6 ways Facebook ruins your life

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“Till Facebook does us part.” People who spend hours every day on the social networking site are more likely to get divorced than those who don’t use it, finds a new study in Computers in Human Behavior.

It could be that people in crappy relationships are just more likely to spend time avoiding their spouses by posting statuses and liking photos, says study coauthor Sebastian Valenzuela, Ph.D., of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. On the other hand, Facebook exposes you to old flings and new mates, makes sneaking around on your wife easier to hide, and also leads to addictive behaviors–all of which won’t do your marriage any favors, Valenzuela adds. (Heading for the altar? You might be surprised at these 5 Signs Your Marriage Will Last.)

Like the old “guns don’t kill people . . . people kill people” line, you can’t blame all your problems on Mark Zuckerberg. But a broken marriage isn’t the only bad thing researchers have linked to Facebook use.

It saps your motivation to give back. “Liking” or showing support for charity organizations on Facebook lowers the odds that you’ll donate your time or money to those causes, finds research from the University of British Columbia. Your public thumbs-up satisfies your desire to look charitable in front of others and makes you feel good about yourself, which wipes out your motivation to volunteer time or cash, the researchers say.

It crushes your mood. The more time you spend on Facebook, the more your attitude sours, shows a study from Austria. You probably realize that staring at profiles and pictures isn’t a very productive use of your time. And the recognition that you’ve wasted a big chunk of your day on something meaningless clouds your mood, the researchers explain. (Excessive smartphone use can have a negative impact on your life. Here are five reasons you might want to power down.)

It makes you dumb. After looking at their own Facebook pages for 5 minutes, people took 15 percent longer to answer simple math questions. That’s because your profile inflates your ego, which undercuts your brain’s motivation to perform, say the researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

It renders your life unsatisfying. The more you surf, the less satisfied you feel about life in general, indicates a study from the University of Michigan. It’s inevitable that some of your friends will be posting about the fun, interesting stuff they’re doing. And contrasting your own boring life to theirs–something Facebook basically forces you to do–could explain these negative consequences, the authors say.

It leaves you lonely. Scanning your friends’ profiles increases feelings of social exclusion and “invisibility,” finds research from Australia. Because you’re observing your buddies but not interacting with them, you feel cut off or left out, the study suggests. (The good news: If you actively post things–pics, updates–and your pals respond to your posts, these bad feelings go away, the study shows.)

Want to become the most interesting person around? Start with these 7 steps.

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How do you become the most interesting person in the world?

To be sure, I’m not referring to the silver fox from the Dos Equis beer commercials, who once ran a marathon just because it was on his way, whose organ donor card lists his beard and who speaks fluent French — in Russian.

The bar doesn’t have to be that high.

In a noisy world where personal branding is a professional imperative and where we constantly compete with equally qualified rivals for clients, jobs, promotions, assignments or funding, not to mention admiration and affection, being just a little more interesting and memorable can be the deciding factor in our favor.

The following list of seven rules should yield some promising results for those who want to up their game with some new skills and behaviors:

1. Master conversational skills. The ability to converse is a key competency for successful client pitches, board room presentations, management meetings and the myriad hallway conversations that influence major business decisions. Skillful small talk and more substantive conversations can make anyone more interesting, provided one has something interesting to say. To get better at it, widen your interests and learn about anything from current events to local issues. Keeping conversations balanced by showing sincere interest in others is critical. A report in Psychological Science cites a study that shows that people who engage in deeper, more substantive conversation are happier than those who keep interactions superficial. Happy people are definitely more interesting than miserable ones.

2. Learn to make a solid business case. Occasionally we get lucky. We ask for something — resources, money, time, support — and we get it. But for the most part, the higher the stakes, the more scrutiny our requests are under. Entrepreneurs, managers and executives who cannot make a solid business case, linking needs to strategic goals, detailing risks, opportunities and projected ROI, based on research and analysis, are discounted by the decision-makers who can green-light a project. By clearly showing value, telling a compelling business story and answering tough questions from stakeholders, we become valued players in a serious game.

3. Cultivate a reputation of expertise. Experts are in demand. Turn on any television channel and you can watch a parade of authorities in various domains give their perspective on healthcare, airline security, the economy and climate change, to name a few. Particularly in times of uncertainty, we corner the experts to get answers and find out what can be done to either avoid loss of some sort or make gains. If you’re more of a generalist, find ways to go deep into a subject matter that can benefit others, and share that information where needed. A key is to make specialized information accessible and easy to understand. Otherwise, you’ll notice eyes glazing over and confusion replacing curiosity.

4. Resolve conflict and dispute between others. In a recent executive coaching survey, CEOs mentioned “conflict-management skills” as their top priority. Being able to help others resolve disputes and conflicting agendas is not just an asset in the C-suite, where leaders have to manage the expectations of a multitude of stakeholders. Even among friends, those who can keep a cool head and balance reason and emotion when arguments threaten to spiral into conflict and hostility, have the respect and admiration of their peers.

5. Build relationships and connect with people. Whether we are individual contributors, startup entrepreneurs or corporate leaders, we need the help of others to accomplish our goals. Being an interesting person helps in building and managing relationships, but the reverse is also true. If we actively engage others, by, for example, inviting someone to lunch, involving a co-worker in a project, asking for a favor, offering support, or sincerely inquiring how someone is doing, we not only become visible, we become relevant. That’s the foundation of mutually gratifying relationships. Make it a goal to communicate authentically with others and become more interesting to them in the process.

6. Engage in active listening. Aside from the fact that engaged listening makes us better informed about people and issues, giving someone our full and undivided attention can have a profound effect on their perception of us. Listening attentively is a “giving” rather than a “taking.” Contrast this with the person who primarily keeps the focus on themselves and the difference becomes crystal clear. When we’re listened to, we matter. Those who do most of the talking believe they matter. We become more interesting when we listen to others.

7. Live life and share experiences. “Life is best lived inside, behind a desk,” said no one, ever. Our experiences and what we choose to share are what make others take an interest in us. People often live vicariously through the adventures of their more socially active peers. It doesn’t have to be running with the bulls in Barcelona — we easily become a little more interesting when we discuss experiences of enjoying a meal at an exotic new restaurant, learning a challenging skill like waterskiing or attending opening night at the museum.

Standing out in a positive way has wide-ranging benefits. These rules are merely a starting point as we manage ourselves to become the most interesting person in the world.