Facebook and Envy

As one of the few people my age (twenty-four) without Facebook (or any social media), I found an article published in The Economist in August 2013 to be pretty stimulating. The article, entitled “Facebook is Bad for You: Get a Life” summarizes several studies indicating that those who use Facebook are more miserable in life. According to a study recently published by the Public Library of Science, “the more someone uses Facebook, the less satisfied he is with life.”

According to the article, past studies have found that using Facebook causes jealousy, social tension, isolation, and even depression. Dr. Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan and Dr. Philippe Verduyn of Leuven University in Belgium conducted a study where they tracked eighty-two ‘Facebookers’ for two weeks and evaluated their changes in emotion. The guinea pigs were all in their late teens or early twenties and agreed to have their Facebook activity and real life encounters monitored for two weeks, reporting five times a day on their state of mind via a short questionnaire. When researchers analyzed the results, it was determined that “the more a volunteer used Facebook in the period between two questionnaires, the worse he reported feeling the next time he filled in a questionnaire.” While those who used Facebook more frequently reported a decline in satisfaction, those who had more direct contact with others, via personal encounters or phone calls, were more positive. “In other words, the more volunteers socialized in the real world, the more positive they reported feeling the next time they filled in the questionnaire.” The results led the doctors to conclude that Facebook actually undermines one’s well-being.

The article also cites a past study conducted by social scientists in Germany who surveyed 584 Facebook users in their twenties. “They found that the most common emotion aroused by using Facebook is envy. Endlessly comparing themselves with peers who have doctored their photographs, amplified their achievements and plagiarized their bons mots can leave Facebook’s users more than a little green-eyed.” The study concluded that encountering people in real life is much more realistic and thus more rewarding.

When I first read this article, I was skeptical of the results of the studies. However, upon more reflection, I recalled numerous people I know who have been ‘brought down’ after seeing something on Facebook. This is not why I do not have Facebook. I choose not to have Facebook because I believe in privacy– I do not think it is anyone’s business to know what I am doing, but even more so, I do not think that anyone would care. That being said, I can appreciate the connections people maintain through social media and would never criticize users. To each his own.

This article does, however, make a lot of sense. Why would anyone want to expose themselves to potentially being less satisfied with life because of nonsense read on social media? On the other hand, are these studies merely blowing Facebook’s effects out of proportion? I would be interested to hear responses from Facebook users. I would assume (admittedly ignorantly) that if you are confident enough in yourself, Facebook cannot negatively impact your life. Thoughts?


The Economist

One thought on “Facebook and Envy”

  1. As a Facebook user, I think that Facebook can negatively effect one’s emotions, depending on the person. I recently just went off of Facebook for about a month, primarily because I am busy, I am looking for a job, and I honestly was sick of hearing about what everyone else was doing; I really couldn’t have cared less what everyone on Facebook was up to (I don’t think that is the case with everyone though). The first week off of Facebook, I found myself surfing the Internet looking to fill that void, but after that week, it was like I never had a Facebook. Ultimately, however, I don’t think not having a Facebook improved or worsened my state of mind, confidence, or emotional state.
    Ironically, it was my mother, who is also a “Facebooker” who asked me to reactivate my Facebook account. I think, being a few states away, she likes to keep an eye on me, but more importantly, she thought it was a good networking tool. I have a lot of family members and family friends on Facebook who my mom thought could help me in my job search. So, I went back on Facebook to reach out to these people. Facebook can certainly impact one’s happiness, but I think that’s only if you let it. Regardless of that fact, I think most people, happy or unhappy, in part because of Facebook, are going to stay on or join because the benefits of having a Facebook account (staying in the loop, connecting with far away friends and family, buzzfeed quizzes, etc.) seem to drastically outweigh the setbacks (lack of privacy, “Facebook-envy,” etc.)

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