Social media

It's not just you: Facebook envy makes people miserable, studies show

Jan. 25, 2013 at 1:31 PM ET

Duane Hoffman / NBC News /

As someone who doesn't prioritize dating, I rarely catch myself mulling over the lack of romance in my life … until I look at my Facebook Newsfeed. Seeing countless posts by friends who are getting engaged, married, or starting families can wipe the smile right off my face and leave me feeling lonely. According to researchers, I'm not the only one who can turn into a sourpuss after after using the social network.

Two German universities conducted a joint research which revealed that many Facebook users are left with feelings of envy, misery, and loneliness after virtually being witness to their friends' love lives, vacations, and work successes.

The researchers from Humboldt University and Darmstadt's Technical University conducted two studies involving 600 people. In the first study, they looked at the "scale, scope and nature of envy incidents triggered by Facebook" and in the second they examined the links between Facebook use, envy triggers, and general life satisfaction.

The researchers discovered that vacation photos are among the worst things you could be looking at on Facebook — they triggered nearly half of the "envy incidents" observed during the studies. The trouble doesn't stop there though. "Social interaction was the second most common cause of envy as users could compare how many birthday greetings they received to those of their Facebook friends and how many 'likes' or comments were made on photos and postings," Goldsmith explains.

Things basically boil down to "users mainly envying happiness of others, the way others spend their vacations and socialize," the researchers' report points out. And this envy can actually affect individuals' overall life satisfaction.

According to the researchers, most find ways to cope with the feelings of envy (in an attempt to improve life satisfaction, one would assume). Some reduce their Facebook usage (or leave the social network entirely), while others change the content they post. Woman become more likely to emphasize their appearance and social lives while men boast more about their accomplishments.

These recent studies aren't the first time we've heard about a connection between Facebook and our fragile feelings and thoughts. In early 2012, the results of three studies which showed that Facebook can affect mental health were revealed. Other studies suggested that Facebook can make peope feel more self-indulgent and spend more while it can also leave them feeling more self-conscious about their bodies and weight.

So, do all these studies mean we should run as far from Facebook as we can, in some sort of self-preservation attempt? Not exactly. There are plenty of studies which show that the site can also have positive psychological effects. It boils down to the most basic of concepts: Take everything in moderation.

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