by Belinda Goldsmith
January 22, 2013
In this photo illustration, a Facebook
logo on a computer screen
is seen through a magnifying glass held
by a woman in Bern May 19, 2012.
Picture taken May 19, 2012.
Credit: Reuters/Thomas Hodel
vacations, love lives and
work successes on FaceBook can
envy and trigger feelings of misery and
according to German researchers.
A study conducted jointly by two German
universities found rampant envy on FaceBook, the world's largest social
network that now has over one billion users and has produced an
unprecedented platform for social comparison.
The researchers found that one in three people felt worse after visiting the
site and more dissatisfied with their lives, while people who browsed
without contributing were affected the most.
"We were surprised by how many people have a
negative experience from FaceBook with envy leaving them feeling lonely,
frustrated or angry," researcher Hanna Krasnova from the Institute of
Information Systems at Berlin's Humboldt University told Reuters.
"From our observations some of these people will then leave
at least reduce their use of the site," said Krasnova, adding to
speculation that FaceBook could be reaching saturation point in some
Researchers from Humboldt University and from
Darmstadt's Technical University found vacation photos were the biggest
cause of resentment with more than half of envy incidents triggered by
holiday snaps on FaceBook.
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.
"Passive following triggers invidious
emotions, with users mainly envying happiness of others, the way others
spend their vacations and socialize," the researchers said in the report
FaceBook - A Hidden Threat to Users' Life Satisfaction?"
released on Tuesday.
"The spread and ubiquitous presence of envy on Social Networking Sites
is shown to undermine users' life satisfaction."
They found people aged in their mid-30s were
most likely to envy family happiness while women were more likely to envy
These feelings of envy were found to prompt some users to boast more about
their achievements on the site run by FaceBook Inc. to portray themselves in
a better light.
Men were shown to post more self-promotional content on FaceBook to let
people know about their accomplishments while women stressed their good
looks and social lives.
The researchers based their findings on two studies involving 600 people
with the results to be presented at a conference on information systems in
Germany in February.
The first study looked at the scale, scope and nature of envy incidents
triggered by FaceBook and the second at how envy was linked to passive use
of FaceBook and life satisfaction.
The researchers said the respondents in both studies were German but they
expected the findings to hold internationally as envy is a universal feeling
and possibly impact FaceBook usage.
"From a provider's perspective, our findings
signal that users frequently perceive FaceBook as a stressful
environment, which may, in the long-run, endanger platform
sustainability," the researchers concluded.