Is Facebook triggering user envy?

22 Jan 2013

Picture it: you log onto Facebook for your daily digest of updates to find your news feed is populated with holiday snaps from virtual friends or updates on busy social lives. Feel a bit envious? Well, a new study from German researchers claims that one in three users of the world’s largest social networking site feel worse after visiting it.

The researchers who hail from two universities in Germany – Humboldt University in Berlin and TU Darmstadt – carried out a study with almost 600 Facebook users to analyse their feelings after using the social networking platform.

Based on the findings of the survey, over a third of those surveyed reported having negative feelings after visiting Facebook such as frustration and envying their online friends, with holiday photos being one of the main triggers of Facebook ‘envy’.

One of the study’s authors, Dr Hanna Krasnova, a postdoctoral researcher at Humboldt University, said that while those who participated in the survey were reluctant to admit to feeling envious while on Facebook, they often presumed that envy can be the cause of other users’ frustration when using the site.

She said this was a clear indication that envy is a prominent phenomenon amongst Facebook users.

“Indeed, access to copious positive news and the profiles of seemingly successful ‘friends’ fosters social comparison that can readily provoke envy,” explained Krasnova.

Passive Facebook users

The study also asserts that those who do not post social updates on sites such as Facebook, and instead use the platform as a source of information on others, are especially prone to feelings of envy.

The researchers will be presenting the result of the survey Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction? at an information systems conference in Leipzig, Germany, at the end of February.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic