Make other people happy– share the sad stuff

Interesting article in Slate that using facebook may actually make people sad.  Here’s how it works:

“Misery Has More Company Than People Think,” a paper in theJanuary issue ofPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin, draws on a series of studies examining how college students evaluate moods, both their own and those of their peers. Led by Alex Jordan, who at the time was a Ph.D. student in Stanford’s psychology department, the researchers found that their subjects consistently underestimated how dejected others were–and likely wound up feeling more dejected as a result. Jordan got the idea for the inquiry after observing his friends’ reactions to Facebook: He noticed that they seemed to feel particularly crummy about themselves after logging onto the site and scrolling through others’ attractive photos, accomplished bios, and chipper status updates. “They were convinced that everyone else was leading a perfect life,” he told me.

The human habit of overestimating other people’s happiness is nothing new, of course. Jordan points to a quote by Montesquieu: “If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.” But social networking may be making this tendency worse. Jordan’s research doesn’t look at Facebook explicitly, but if his conclusions are correct, it follows that the site would have a special power to make us sadder and lonelier. By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people’s lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles’ heel of human nature. And women—an especially unhappy bunch of late—may be especially vulnerable to keeping up with what they imagine is the happiness of the Joneses.

The article doesn’t say so, but an obvious implication is that you should do all your facebook friends a favor and post more negative stuff about yourself.  I try to do my part a little.  I did post when my mom died.  Then again, maybe I’m pretty guilty, as this sounds like me:

Any parent who has posted photos and videos of her child on Facebook is keenly aware of the resulting disconnect from reality, the way chronicling parenthood this way creates a story line of delightfully misspoken words, adorably worn hats, dancing, blown kisses. Tearful falls and tantrums are rarely recorded, nor are the stretches of pure, mind-blowing tedium. We protect ourselves, and our kids, this way; happiness is impersonal in a way that pain is not. But in the process, we wind up contributing to the illusion that kids are all joy, no effort.

Alright then, I’ll at least mention on my blog that I’m damn frustrated that 3 of my 4 children can be diagnosed in the DSM-IV (I was fine with 2 of 4, but really, Evan, too?).  Feel better?

An activist ruling

Wow– what can you say about the ruling of the Florida district court judge declaring the entire health care law Unconstitutional.  Just breathtaking in so many ways.  If you ever hear a conservative complain about “activist judges,” please point to this ruling.  It’s hard to imagine a decision more activist in so many ways.   I think of the core of that is the judge’s decision to strike down the whole law as Unconstitutional.  This is really nothing more than a nakedly political act.  Yglesias:

The giveaway in the latest court ruling against the Affordable Care Act is the judge’s ruling that the allegedly unconstitutional “individual mandate” is “non-severable” from the rest of the law. That means that all the parts of the law are being thrown out. The provision reducing subsidies to for-profit student loans? Unconstitutional! Expanded Medicaid eligibility? Unconstitutional! Reduced prescription drug costs for seniors? Unconstitutional!

This is the view with the least support in legal precedent, but that does the most to advance the financial interests of the conservative coalition in the United States of America. And that’s about how judging works.

Ezra points out how the judge basically admits that his ruling is very activist, but nonetheless tries to justify it (not at all persuasively):

The full ruling has a very Bush v. Gore feeling, as Vinson concedes that his position is activist in the extreme and a break from the court’s usual preference for limited rulings, but says, in effect, that he’s going to do it just this once. “This conclusion is reached with full appreciation for the ‘normal rule’ that reviewing courts should ordinarily refrain from invalidating more than the unconstitutional part of a statute,” Vinson writes, “but non-severability is required based on the unique facts of this case and the particular aspects of the Act. This is not a situation that is likely to be repeated.” Italics mine.

Non legal-ese summary.  I’m going to do what I damn well want because I really don’t like this particular bill.

And some Greene Constitutional law analysis based on this story in the Post:

Oh, no, the Post actually replaced the article at the link I saved with an updated version which omits the part I was going to comment upon.  I don’t remember exactly, but the short version is that the judge was saying it was unconstitutionally coercive of the states, yet the fact that the Federal government can coerce the states (whether or not you agree with this) is quite a matter of settled law (e.g., highway speed limits, drinking age, etc.).  Jon Cohn has  a nice post on how the judge is simply off on basic facts.

Finally, it’s really important to remember that this is simply the ruling of a single District Court Judge who has no broader authority beyond his district.   Not that the media will be so circumspect in their reporting.  The only decision that will truly matter will be that of the Supreme Court (should they declare the entire law Unconstitutional, I truly think that will do the most to undermine the institution of the Court of any decision in a long, long time– though I don’t think they will do that).  Still, save your excitement for then.

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