Wasting ten minutes to leaf through holiday photos of someone you haven’t seen since primary school will always be a key danger of Facebook. But there are bigger and more serious threats lurking, according to a study which has proven that Facebook envy is very real.
The news is not good, according to the conclusions by Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The medical journal has gathered a range of different research into how social networking affects people, and it seems we underestimate how selective people are when posting information on their profiles. Consequently we end up feeling like our own lives are lacking.
Apparently we are no good at evaluating other people’s moods, according to the studies, which found that subjects consequently underestimated how dejected others were and ended up feeling worse about their own lives as a result. The study showed that people are reluctant to appear negative, so they post overly cheerful Facebook updates to convince the world all is well.
Add this to feelings of jealousy when looking at Facebook friends’ happy chatter, and Facebook becomes very bad for you indeed. People usually pick the good stuff like holidays and fun nights out to discuss in public forums, meaning if you are having a bad day this may make you feel like you are the only one not having any fun. But think about it – are you going to be announcing these blues on Facebook? Probably not. So chances are, your friends are only telling one side of the story.
The Zen approach
We should be slapping a warning sticker on Facebook, it would seem, informing people to take what they read with a pinch of salt. Perspective is another possible remedy to avoid Facebook envy, according to Alex Jordan, who led the studies while a Ph.D. student at Stanford University. ‘If we could overcome the need to compare ourselves to other people, to keep up with the Joneses, then maybe these effects described [in the study] wouldn’t be a problem,’ he told CBS News.
Take the Zen approach, in other words, although this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Comparing ourselves to other people is surprisingly hard-wired into us. Wanting what other people have goes back to when we were kids, and while we are less likely to pull someone’s hair to get it now, the basic principle remains: I want what you have.
There’s another possible solution though, if you find yourself suffering from Facebook envy. Look up that one friend who always posts gloomy updates. We all have at least one contributor to our social stream who will lament over late-running buses, lonely Saturday nights or sleepless nights. Once you have spent a few minutes with Mister Woe-Is-Me, you’ll be feeling better in no time.