Paying too much attention to your Facebook timeline could reap negative consequences like jealousy and depression, reports a new study. Pining over your friends and family’s seemingly perfect lives could cause you to compare them to your own life and leave you feeling envious.
“We found that if Facebook users experience envy of the activities and lifestyles of their friends on Facebook, they are much more likely to report feelings of depression,” study co-author Dr. Margaret Duffy, a University of Missouri journalism professor, said in a press release. “Facebook can be a very positive resource for many people, but if it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect. "
Seeing your high school classmates posting statuses of their engagements and pregnancies could surely have you in your feelings, so much so that it can begin to take a toll on your own happiness and self-esteem.
The study surveyed 736 college students who filled out a survey indicating how much they use Facebook and what they do on the social network. They were also asked to rate how much they agreed with statements linked to feelings of envy, such as, "I generally feel inferior to others," or "It somehow doesn’t seem fair that some people seem to have all the fun," Then, participants rated how much they agreed with phrases that corresponded to depression, such as, "I was bothered by things that usually don’t bother me" and "I talked less than usual."
Heavy Facebook use is not linked directly to depression, however, frequent users who experienced feelings of envy were more likely to identify with statements corresponding to depression. These tended to be users who compared their own lives to friends' photos of trips to foreign countries, status updates about good news, among other things.
But social media doesn’t have to be such a bummer. Researchers say the key is to keep a conscious outlook on how you actually consume the content you see and read on sites like Facebook.
"Users should be self-aware that positive self-presentation is an important motivation in using social media, so it is to be expected that many users would only post positive things about themselves," study co-author Edson Tandoc said in a press release. "This self-awareness, hopefully, can lessen feelings of envy.”
So the next time you feel like gouging your eyes out because of some envious post on your timeline, remember to step away from the computer, breathe and keep things in perspective. All that glitters isn’t always gold.
(Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Corbis)