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Facebook: Do you use it to engage or to compare yourself to your friends?

Published: February 6, 2015 | By | 10 Replies Continue Reading


A new study suggests that “Facebook envy” can lead to feelings of depression.

When using social media sites like Facebook, it’s common for people to try to put their best foot forward: Thus, users tend to post most often about accomplishments, possessions, and positive relationships rather than negative experiences.

A recent survey of 700 college students by University of Missouri researchers found that when people rely on Facebook to compare themselves to others (as opposed to using it to connect with friends and colleagues in a more meaningful way), this can spark envy and symptoms of depression.

“Facebook can be a fun and healthy activity if users take advantage of the site to stay connected with family and old friends and to share interesting and important aspects of their lives,” says Margaret Duffy, a professor and chair of strategic communication at the MU School of Journalism, in a press release. “However, if Facebook is used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship—things that cause envy among users—use of the site can lead to feelings of depression.”

Specifically, researchers found that people who use the social media site for “surveillance” are more likely to experience symptoms of depression than those who use it to connect.

How can you deal with the envy of reading about everyone else’s good fortune?

“Based on our study, as well as on what others have previously found, using Facebook can exert positive effects on well-being,” notes Edson Tandoc, a former doctoral student at MU who worked with the team. “But when it triggers envy among users, that’s a different story. Users should be self-aware that positive self-presentation is an important motivation in using social media…this self-awareness, hopefully, can lessen feelings of envy.”

The University of Missouri study was published in Computers in Human Behavior.

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Category: Research on Friendship

Comments (10)

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  1. josh says:

    I don’t need to compare myself to others I like to see myself as a leader not a follower I’m happy with what I’ve got and who I am, alough sometimes when I use Facebook I see people post stuff similar to what I post or like of comment on threads I like,I then think are you copying me or stalking me, It is like an online version of keeping up with the joneses but like I said I like to be the leader not the follower,By comparing yourself to others you’re leading yourself to low confidence self esteem issues and later depression

  2. LaTrice says:

    I got into a heated argument with my ex-best friend regarding Facebook-not once, but TWICE!! The first incident happened when his “girlfriend” was talking crazy to me, so I had to put this woman in her place, by letting her know that she needed to leave me alone. The second incident, was out of control. My ex-best friend’s “girlfriend” was talking to me crazy AGAIN, so I told the truth about herself. My ex-best friend was sending me text messages, and accused me to disrespecting her, so I will deny that allegation. From the name calling, to defining my independence, my ex-best friend’s actions was the last straw. He gave me no CHOICE but to end the friendship. Besides, I don’t enjoy being disrespected.

    I feel that if you’re having issues within your relationship, don’t broadcast your dirty laundry on Facebook for the whole entire universe to know. My ex-best friend stooped to a lower level, by placing everyone on blast for something that his stupid “girlfriend” started on Facebook. Honestly, what he did was extremely immature, and it was nothing but a bunch of high school drama!!

    I was more of a best friend to him, than he was a best friend to me. This man has hurt me way too many times, that I can’t count with my fingers!! He had the NERVE to play the role of a victim, when his hands aren’t clean (he asked me to sleep with him behind his “girlfriend’s” back. When I refused to do that, he was angry with me). I don’t know what my ex-best friend’s problem is, but I feel that he’s on Facebook to brag about his life to make everyone jealous.

    I’ve learned the most valuable lesson from my ex-best friend: don’t broadcast your dirty laundry on Facebook.

  3. Tracy says:

    I use it to engage with, but there are some things that come up that cause me to reflect on myself- in regards to others.

    Facebook is something I kind of wish was not invented. Online bullying is one of many reasons.

  4. Bizzy says:


    I think it is odd that the friends of your colleagues posted hurt and competitive replies to your friend’s picture. That is very immature. Maybe that woman is her best friend, or is just being silly. They need to grow up.

  5. Sandra says:

    Earlier this weekend, I noticed that a colleague had posted a photo of herself drinking wine at a bar with a good friend of hers. Describing the photo, she referred to the friend as her “best friend in the world,” which quickly prompted some seriously hurt feelings between her other “best friends” who saw the photo and caption on Facebook. What was she thinking? Everyone could read all the hurt feelings — and the competitive anger — in the subsequent comments. Yikes. This is an example of how people need to be careful of how they use social media.

  6. Laura says:

    Facebook has become the electronic version of “Keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s human nature to compare but if you have a balanced life offline, Facebook shouldn’t be depressing. Excessive bragging doesn’t make me jealous, but it makes me hide the person from my feed because it becomes boring after a while.

    I engage on Facebook and find it a handy way to keep up with people, the news and pop culture. One stop shopping! However, it’s not a substitute for real friendships and interactions offline.

  7. Amy F says:

    I don’t think comparison is unique to Facebook. I think people who are depressed, unhappy, lacking selfesteem or ego strength will subconsciously look for “proof” of their negative self image–confirmation bias. Some people need more external validation then others, and I think FB feeds into these needs. I don’t see it as bragging and don’t compare myself to what people choose to post about themselves on FB.

    I think some posts are silly–share if you live your daughter would clog up FB feeds more if memes read **share if you don’t live your daughter** or **share if you don’t want a cure for cancer**.

    I try to tell FBI what types of posts I like and don’t like to see to keep from being annoyed.

  8. Sandra says:

    Great article, and interesting study. I think some users present a stage-managed image of themselves and their lives on Facebook. I see my neighbors sharing their vacation photos — and my first thought: Is it ever wise to let people know you’re NOT HOME all the time? There’s also a lot of boasting about kids and their accomplishments, which makes me wonder how healthy this is for the poor kids … In other words, I try to take Facebook with a grain of salt and remind myself to keep my own posts balanced and honest.

    • Susan says:

      Very good point Sandra, and I agree with your last sentence as well.

    • Lina says:

      Thanks Sandra.
      I was feeling upset whenever I read parents boasting their kds and their accomplishments.
      You have opened up my mind about this and your last sentence is great advice that I will print out.

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