Have you got Facebook envy? | tutor2u Psychology

‘Enjoying great food and sunshine’, ‘Loving my year in Australia’, friends checking in at MY favourite restaurant, and photos on the beach in Thailand. This is was what greeted me when I looked at Facebook this morning – while the weather outside was your typical British summer rain and my stinking cold wasn’t getting any better. I am definitely suffering from Facebook envy!

According to Smith and Kim (2007) envy happens when someone else has something that we want, but cannot have. Well, I certainly cannot have a year in Australia, my man flu is stopping me from eating out and sunshine is too much to ask in August! So confirmed, I am envious of my Facebook friends.

Burke (2010) suggests that envy is likely to occur if you are a frequent user of social media and you’re consuming lots of information about others. Those who use Facebook frequently are likely to have more friends (oh no, I’m feeling envious again), which results in having more points of comparison. So, if your cat cannot dance, but if many of your 648 friends are posting about their singing and dancing cats, you are going to feel inferior. The more friends you have, the more exposed you are to others’ personal information and activities, which are generally positive experiences. Your mate John went swimming with dolphins, while you are stressed at work. Your friend Steph is looking forward to getting her new sports car – whereas your mini is not going pass its MOT. While your happily married couple friends are sharing their amazing memory of the honeymoon and you’ve had a row with your other half! It seems everyone else’s life is better than yours! So, Facebook envy is used to describe the envy felt after spending time consuming others’ personal information on Facebook. Are you a sufferer?

Worryingly, Facebook envy can have serious consequences to your mental health. If it occurs over a long period of time we may become depressed, because of the development of negative life satisfaction and feelings of inferiority. In fact Wright et al. (2012) found that the number of hours students spent on Facebook was positively correlated with depression.

In 2015, Tandoc et al. carried out some self-report research on 854 American College Journalism students, into whether Facebooking is depressing? They found that ‘heavy’ Facebook users had generally higher and stronger levels of Facebook envy than ‘light’ users. Moreover, those with higher levels of Facebook envy also reported more symptoms of depression. However, the hypothesis that those with more Facebook friends would have higher levels of envy was actually not supported.

Tandoc concluded that just using Facebook does not directly cause depression – well that’s a relief! Although Facebook envy can be linked to symptoms of depression, but when the envy is controlled Facebook use can actually reduce levels of depression.

So, next time you log onto Facebook, don’t compare yourself to other people. Your friends are only posting positive experiences online, not the monotonous day to day stuff, so it’s not a fair comparison. Although you could compare yourself to THAT ‘friend’ who is always having a moan and a whinge – there is nothing to be envious about there!

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