Friday, February 15, 2013

Study: Facebook Makes Users Envious and Dissatisfied

Here is an interesting study that has recently been conducted that shows the correlation between Facebook and envy.  I have found envy myself when using the site.  After reading an interesting story -- and subject of a future post -- that individuals can purchase a "fake girlfriend" for a period of time on Facebook, I started to realize that much of what I was seeing and reading on Facebook was indeed false.  Reality is constantly distorted on Facebook.  The result, for many, however, is intense envy and anger.  Much of this anger is directed at the self.  Is this healthy?  I do not think so.  

Yet, the sole purpose of purchasing a girlfriend on Facebook is to create envy in the minds of your 'friends'.   Has Facebook reduced your life satisfaction or caused you to feel considerable envy?  If so, please share in the comment field below.  

---Facebook Makes Users Envious and Dissatisfied---

Participation in social networks, such as Facebook, can cause negative feelings and reduce members’ life satisfaction. Those are the results of a survey with nearly 600 Facebook users by Information Systems scientists at the TU Darmstadt and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

In a joint research study conducted by the Department of Information Systems of the TU Darmstadt (Prof. Dr. Peter Buxmann) and the Institute of Information Systems of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Dr. Hanna Krasnova), Facebook members were surveyed regarding their feelings after using the platform.
More than one-third of respondents reported predominantly negative feelings, such as frustration. The researchers identified that envying their “Facebook friends” is the major reason for this result.
Project manager Dr. Hanna Krasnova, who is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Humboldt-Universität, explained that, “Although respondents were reluctant to admit feeling envious while on Facebook, they often presumed that envy can be the cause behind the frustration of “others” on this platform – a clear indication that envy is a salient phenomenon in the Facebook context. Indeed, access to copious positive news and the profiles of seemingly successful ‘friends’ fosters social comparison that can readily provoke envy. By and large, online social networks allow users unprecedented access to information on relevant others – insights that would be much more difficult to obtain offline.”
Those who do not engage in any active, interpersonal communications on social networks and primarily utilize them as sources of information, e.g. reading friends’ postings, checking news feeds, or browsing through photos, are particularly subject to these painful experiences.

Envying Facebook friends leads to a vicious “envy spiral”

Another result of the survey was that about one-fifth of all recent online / offline events that had provoked envy among the respondents took place within a Facebook context. This reveals a colossal role of this platform in users’ emotional life. Paradoxically, envy can frequently lead to users embellishing their Facebook profiles, which, in turn, provokes envy among other users, a phenomenon that the researchers have termed “envy spiral.”
The leading online and offline envy provokers in Germany are related to “Travel and Leisure”. As Dr. Thomas Widjaja of the TU-Darmstadt, who was also involved in the project, put it, “This is a result of numerous vacation photos posted on Facebook, which are particularly popular among German users.”

Facebook envy fosters dissatisfaction

Based on the survey data, the researchers were also able to establish a negative link between the envy that arises while on Facebook and users’ general life satisfaction. Indeed, passive use of Facebook heightens invidious emotions that, in turn, adversely affect users’ satisfaction with their lives. Coauthor Helena Wenninger of the TU-Darmstadt argued that, “Considering the fact that Facebook use is a worldwide phenomenon and envy is a universal feeling, a lot of people are subject to these painful consequences.”
The results of the survey will be presented at the “11th International Conference Wirtschaftsinformatik (Information Systems)” to be held in Leipzig, Germany, February 27 through March 1, 2013. The researchers plan to conduct a follow-on survey that will explore the effects of Facebook use on envy and its consequences within various cultures.

This story was originally published at


  1. I think high school/university students are the most vulnerable amongst others and would be the most affected by Facebook envy because they are still emotionally immature and some still are struggling with self-worth issues etc.
    I believe Facebook can cause some serious damage to young people's fragile self-esteem yet I can't imagine a young person nowadays who doesn't have an FB profile or use some sort of social networking.

  2. I totally agree with this study. When I still had Facebook, I always envied the vacation photos and fun times that my peers had, since I wasn't included in those photos and since I had to stay away from vacations to reduce spending because of having to keep a tight hold on my expenses ever since I was laid off from work. Leaving Facebook lifted a heavy burden off me. Since I am not exposed to others' photos, I now feel more happy and contented in my recent vacations, and I am able to appreciate my own experiences without needing validation from others.

  3. I can think of only one instance where using Facebook led me to feeling true envy, and it's not what most people mention. What made me jealous was seeing how much attention a friend of mine was paying to a mutual friend while she ignored me much of the time. I connected with her so well when we got together, and we never ran out of things to talk about, but it was hard to get a hold of her most of the time through texting/calling/email. Some of her other friends complained about it, too. I then assumed she was just extremely flaky and treated everyone that way, but then I saw how she frequently found the time to say nice things to this mutual friend on Facebook. I suddenly felt left out, like she did not value me nearly as much as our mutual friend. It made me feel foolish, as well, that maybe I was the only one who enjoyed our connection.

    Because younger people are often desperate to fit in and be accepted by their peers, I totally agree with Maria D's comment that social media could be detrimental to the self-esteem of teens who struggle to make/maintain close friendships. I'm so thankful I grew up right before social media exploded into this crazy mess that we're witnessing today.