Facebook envy

Looking at friends’ posts on Facebook is leading others to question their life’s purpose.

Meghan O'Connor

 

I’m embarrassed to admit how much time I spend on Facebook, but I know I’m not the only one. Yet, lately when I try to escape the monotony of my schoolwork by clicking through friends’ Facebook pages, particularly their photo albums, it only leads me to question what in the world I am doing with my own life.

Many of my friends have jetted off somewhere fabulous for the semester, and it looks like they are having the time of their lives. Pictures of friends out rafting in Argentina, or statuses about  amazing job opportunities  have left me wondering if my life is too bland or a bit too ordinary.

It’s called Facebook envy, a term coined by researchers from Humboldt University of Berlin and Darmstadt’s University of Technology, who studied the effects that Facebook has on its users.

The researchers found that after visiting Facebook, one in three people felt worse and more dissatisfied with their lives.

“Many people have a negative experience from Facebook with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry,” said Hanna Krasnova, a researcher from the Institute of Information Systems at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

Not only can Facebook lead people to become envious of another’s adventure, but it can cause more serious side effects or disorders, such as depression.

In a 2011 article published in “Pediatrics,” Krasnova and other researchers studied the effects of social media on adolescents. Those who spent a good deal of time on these social media sites tended to display “classic symptoms of depression.”

Typically, these symptoms occur in a person who already feels disconnected and isolated from the world; Facebook enhances these feelings.

Many have refuted Facebook envy, but the causation still stands: Facebook results in envy, and envy could result in depression.

The problem is we are only seeing the positives on these Facebook profiles. Who is going to post about the gritty and not-so-pretty details about their life? Well, some might, but for most of us, Facebook is a platform to show all of our friends how amazing we are.

Where does this leave us? Are we all supposed to ditch the connectivity of Facebook to avoid falling mentally ill? Or is the simple act of becoming aware that “Facebook envy” exists a cure?

Personally, I have found some positive effects from having Facebook envy. Those who are traveling and traipsing across the globe have inspired me.

Last week, I was stuck thinking about my mundane summer ahead and decided to see what opportunities were out there. I started to apply for au pair positions abroad and wound up finding a family in Italy who eventually offered me a position.

Now I’m dealing with whether I should accept it, but I know I never would have put myself out there for a job like this had I not been exposed to the adventures of my friends online.

Maybe amid all the statistics and research against the effects of Facebook envy there is a hidden value in being exposed to jealousy.

It could be that the people who are venturing out into the world on dream-like vacations were once sitting behind their computer screens rifling through Facebook photos and asking themselves: “Why am I not doing something like that?”

So instead of seeing Facebook as an end-all to your personal happiness, see it as a tool for motivation, and realize that you aren’t seeing the whole story online, only what they want you to see.