Now, I’ve admitted to using my Facebook profile as a weapon of showmanship, a vehicle to portray my life in a certain light. There is no malicious intent there, just a desire to put my best virtual foot forward, as we all wish to do. Sadly, a new report has shown that this kind of behaviour, however innocent, is leading to toxic jealousy that has caused major depression for many.
A new study called ‘Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?’ conducted by the Institute of Information Systems, studied Facebook use in two German universities, Humboldt University and Technical University in Darmstadt. Of the over 600 people involved in the study, one in three were found to experience feelings of inadequacy and “general dissatisfaction” with their lives after viewing photos of the fantastic and fulfilling lives of others. Not surprisingly, holiday snaps caused the most resentment. Sunny photos of sun, sea and sand on expensive trips taken with lovers and good friends will do that to a person who doesn’t quite have the same things going for them. People in their mid-30’s were the most affected by Facebook envy, probably because the 30’s are supposed to be the wonder years of a happily-married, financially-stable and socially-adequate existence. Women were more likely to envy the physical attractiveness of others – again, those pesky holiday photos with bikini-ready bodies can’t be helping this situation.
Other common gripes were ‘discovering how well your friends and former classmates are doing.’ Prior to Facebook, word of mouth and high school reunions were the only way you would know how your entire graduating class was getting on. Now we have the displeasure of being exposed to all the successes of our peers and we know exactly who has eclipsed us along the way. Those who did not post updates were reportedly the worst off, ‘feeling lonely, frustrated or angry’ and left out according to researcher Hanna Krasnova from Humboldt University. These people would then reduce their activity on the site, taking a step back to limit their exposure to harmful details and also perhaps because they had little to contribute.
According to the study, Facebook provides a “basis for social comparison and envy on an unprecedented scale”, everything from displays of a happy, active social lives and relationship statuses to how many birthday wishes someone has garnered could potentially send the next person spiraling into despair.
It seems that users forget that their friends are actively sharing the good and not the bad, therefore posts of fine dining and beach trips should be taken with a pinch of salt – it’s not always like this. Hanna Krasnova reminds us – “Everyone who is posting is always trying to depict themselves as well as possible and therefore the posts are predominantly positive.”