A study conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia revealed that Facebook posts heavily contribute to people’s negative feelings about themselves, including lower self-worth. But, jealousy is what people mostly feel when scrolling through the dolled-up lives of their friends.
Past studies have linked social media use to depression, anxiety and narcissism but these studies never got to the root of the cause for such feelings.
Co-author of the recent study, Izak Benbasat, entitled the study “Why Following Friends Can Hurt You.” Researchers evaluated survey responses from almost 1,200 German university students regarding their Facebook habits as well as their emotions felt while using the network.
While 38% of respondents stated that using Facebook is pleasurable, the most common response to the question of “Which emotion do you feel the most when using Facebook?” was envy.
But, it took some specific questioning to get students to realize they felt envious. Benbasat pointed out that, “If we asked people directly ‘What do you feel?’ only 25% mention envy.” However, that number increases to 50% when asked about their general feelings. Benbasat believes that, “The truth is somewhere in the middle.”
63% of the time, posts about travel and leisure triggered users’ feelings of envy and inadequacy. That is compared to 18% of the time when friends discuss the same issues in a conversational setting.
Interestingly, the study revealed that a person’s tendency to compare his or her experiences with friends actually lessens that person’s enjoyment in their own experiences unless it is believed that they will be better than others’.
Benbasat said that, “Most of the time people on Facebook are trying to show their good sides, not their bad sides. When envy goes up, emotional and social well-being comes down.” That in turn increases feelings of stress, sadness and loneliness.
Millennials are particularly susceptible to these feelings of unhappiness due to the disparities between expectations and reality.
Benbasat noted that, “From other studies, we know that feelings of envy are higher when you are younger.”
To cope with those sad feelings, people sometimes try to make themselves look good in their social media posts. “There is a reaction to when people feel envious they will post good, pleasant information about themselves.” Ironically, this only feeds into the continuing problem.