Social media websites have existed for years now, and continue to be used by people around the world. Facebook is one of many websites where one can share videos, pictures, messages, among other things, to friends, and all conveniently from their computers or cellphones. The issue comes when some individuals post only the positive highlights of their day, and others compare their own lives to these highlights. We may not take into account the ups and downs other people possibly face when we can only view the positive moments of their lives on social media.
Feelings of envy can sprout when people view others as better than themselves in some aspect. For example, seeing your friend wear a more expensive or popular brand of shoes than you can lead you to compare yourself to them, and view them as superior to you based on your footwear. The term “Facebook envy” refers to when individuals browse through social media websites and feel upset viewing their online friends’ positive portrayals of their lives on their profiles. An individual can compare their profile to another’s based on the number of photos they post at different parties, and may feel inferior because they do not attend as many parties. A relationship has been found between depression and envy, so therefore there is an idea that Facebook envy may affect people with depression more than those without depression.
In 2015, Helmet Appel, Jan Crusius, and Alexander Gerlach wrote an article about their efforts to find out if attractive Facebook profiles can lead to feelings of envy in depressed individuals. They clarify that depression can lead people to compare themselves to others more frequently, and be more strongly impacted by negative social comparisons. We all have the opportunity to select specific posts and pictures (which may even be photo-shopped) onto our Facebook profiles. Anyone using this website has the ability to portray their lives more positively or negatively than they really are. This type of online environment means that depressed individuals are at high-risk of making social comparisons to their online friends.
The study by Appel, Crusius, and Gerlach was conducted in Germany using 89 people (with an average age of 27 years old). Around half of them had depression and half did not. The participants all looked at two attractive and two unattractive Facebook profiles, and then answered questions to see if they thought the profile owners were happy, and if they felt envious of the profile owners. The authors of the article wrote that the participants with depression felt more envious after viewing an attractive profile. People with depression, therefore, may be at a higher risk of feeling envious when comparing themselves to attractive Facebook profiles. The problem is that feelings of envy are not desirable to most people, and not many want to admit that they are jealous of others. Facebook is an environment that offers endless opportunities for social comparisons, which means depressed individuals can be even more affected when making negative social comparisons.
In order to potentially help people who are vulnerable to feeling of envy when using Facebook, people must be made more aware of how everyone, including themselves tend to post highlights of their lives, rather than negative things. Always keep in mind that most people desire to portray themselves in a positive way to other people, and this means posting attractive pictures, positive posts, and happy videos. Remember that Facebook profiles are not always an accurate representation of somebody’s life or level of happiness. Happy pictures do not mean that the profile owner never feels sad. Hundreds of Facebook friends do not mean that the profile owner never feels lonely. Everyone has good and bad days, and hopefully more people (including those with depression) will scroll down their Facebook feeds acknowledging that everyone has positive and negative moments in their lives. The next time you or a friend compare yourselves to another person based on their Facebook profiles, keep in mind that Facebook does not represent the person’s real life struggles and successes. With these thoughts in mind, people may not assume that their lives are inferior to others’ based on their Facebook posts. And more specifically, those with depression may not feel as envious when looking at others' Facebook profiles.
- Shang Rashid
Appel, H., Crusius, J., & Gerlach A. L. (2015). Social comparison, envy, and depression on Facebook: A study looking at the effects of high comparison standards on depressed individuals. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 34(4), 277-289. doi:http://dx.doi.org.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/101521jscp2015344277