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Facebook envy could be making us miserable

While we all enjoy staying connected and ‘in touch’ with loved ones, friends and even acquaintances, being exposed to their work, life and love successes on a daily basis could be making us miserable.

Facebook envy could be making us miserable

The world’s largest social networking site, with over a billion users, has managed to produce an unprecedented platform for social comparison and envy, a German study has found.

According to the study’s finding, one in every three Facebook users will walk away feeling more dissatisfied with their lives after visiting the site. For those who browse without contributing, the outcome is even worse, triggering strong feelings of misery and loneliness.

“We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry,” the study’s lead author, Hanna Krasnova, said.

The German researchers from Humboldt University and Darmstadt Technical University found the greatest culprit for resentment were holiday snaps, with the happy images responsible for more than half of all envy-triggering incidents on the site.

“Passive following triggers invidious emotions, with users mainly envying happiness of others, the way others spend their vacations and socialise,” they said.

Comparing the number of birthday greetings, ‘likes’ and comments made on posts or photos of friends, was the second most common cause for users to catch a bout of the green-eyed monster.

“A lonely user might envy numerous birthday wishes his more sociable peer receives on his Facebook wall,” the report read.

“Equally, a friend’s change in the relationship status from ‘single’ to ‘in a relationship’ might cause emotional havoc for someone undergoing a painful break-up.”

Those over 30 were more likely to envy family contentment, and for women, jealousy was overwhelmingly related to physical attractiveness.

Many users were found to respond to feelings of envy, by overcompensating with posts about their own achievements, boasting about their lives in a way which makes them appear much more successful and happier than they really were.

“Success, talents and possessions lead to reactions of envy,” the researchers said.

“Everyone who is posting is always trying to depict themselves as well as possible and therefore the posts are predominantly positive.”

Men were found to be bigger self-promoters of their accomplishments and achievements, while women chose to emphasise portraying their ‘good looks’ and busy social lives.

Similarly, some users are experiencing a sense of social ostracism, when they log on and see photos or ‘check ins’ at social outings they have not been invited to. Food for thought the next time you decide to post a photo of your ‘amazing’ night out.

But the “ubiquitous presence of envy” that was shown to undermine “user’s life satisfaction” may also be detrimental to the long-term sustainability of the Facebook site itself.

“From our observations some of these people will then leave Facebook or at least reduce their use of the site,” the researchers warned.

The report, entitled Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?, was based on a study of 600 people within Germany, but the researchers believe the findings would hold if an international study was conducted, as envy, as we all know, is a universal feeling.

What do you think? Does Facebook leave you feeling less satisfied with your life? We would love to hear your thoughts, share them with us in the comment section below. Join the discussion on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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