By Ian Currie
Social media, sadness and envy are not three words often advertised together. A new study reports that they are inextricably linked.
A number of studies suggest that using various forms of social media often results in very negative emotions towards oneself and others you connect with on those platforms.
A German study conducted at the Institute of Information Systems, Berlin, showed that the more time people spend browsing on Facebook, as opposed to actively creating content and engaging with it, the more envious they felt about the content they were consuming. This was a result of the principle of social comparison.
People tend to portray the best version of their own lives on social media, and because of the nature of the ‘Friends’, or the company kept, on social media sites, these versions can often hamper ones self-image.
Brentwood, Tenn., senior Thomas Leathers said that, “Social media allows you to be the person you want the world to see.”
According to the study, ‘friends’ tend to be people with similar interests or common experiences, and their successes as portrayed on social media can make others feel like they are falling short in their own lives, leading to sadness, frustration and envy.
Shreveport, La., graduate student Audrey Richardson said she finds that social media causes her to use her time in worlds that she has no real interest in.
“There is a feeling of isolation as I disinterestedly sit behind my computer screen investing my time in this virtual world in which I have no obligation to invest my emotions, intellect or even identity,” Richardson said.
Social media, as part of its basis in networks a user develops, causes subconscious comparisons to the lives of the other people in the network.
However, some users try to see through the mask of lives people present on social media.
“It can be a little too showy and seem insincere,” Leathers said “and that can rub me the wrong way.”
Belton junior Anthony Garcia said he does not feel like social media has ever caused him to envy his peers because he reminds himself that profiles, status updates and tweets are just one side of a person.
“It’s just the best part of a glimpse of people,” he said. “So I try not to think of it as all of that person, but just a part.”
It is important to remember that everyone has areas of their life that they want to keep hidden, Garcia said.
“Everybody has something, it’s just not on their Facebook,” he said. “You just have to be mindful that people are trying to present their best selves online, whether it’s for employers, family or just for the sake of trying to keep up a reputation.”
Waco graduate student Emilly Martinez uses social media posts to better herself, as opposed to letting them negatively impact her.
“I’ve never seen anything on social media that made me feel bad about myself,” Martinez said. “I am very competitive and posts have challenged me to push myself.”
Tyler sophomore Kate Googins said she does not feel jealousy over social media and thinks people who are more prone to jealousy may be the ones who feel the effects of social media enduced envy.
“I guess people who play the comparison game are more prone to jealousy,” she said. “When you’re looking through someone’s photos and are thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re so beautiful and don’t have any acne,’ you should also think, ‘Wait, they probably photoshopped that.’”
Garcia said jealousy felt over social perceptions is not a new concept.
“In the generation before us, there was always keeping up with the Joneses.” he said. “It’s the same thing that’s always been around, but it just seems to be magnified with social media.”
Garcia said this ‘Jonses’ mentality carries a deception that mirrors younger generations’ use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
“Just like you’re only seeing the outside of the family, you’re only seeing the outside of a person with social media,” he said.
The German study points particularly to Facebook when examining the link between social media and envy.
“This magnitude of envy incidents taking place on FB alone is astounding, providing evidence that FB offers a breeding ground for invidious feelings,” the authors write.
If social media is largely a breeding ground for resentment and self-criticism, it is clear that it is missing the mark of its intention to bring people and ideas together.