Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia have found that being envious of your Facebook friends can lead to depression, a finding that should give some of us pause. Based on a survey of 700 students, the study found that users who engage in “surveillance use” – “brows[ing] the website to see how their friends are doing compared with their own lives” – versus simply using the site to contact friends and family can experience symptoms of depression.
“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,” said Margaret Duffy, a professor at the MU School of Journalism. “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. It is important for Facebook users to be aware of these risks so they can avoid this kind of behavior when using Facebook.”
In short, hate-viewing photos of your friend’s fancy vacation or scrolling through your friends high-price purchases brings you down.
“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,” said Duffy.
Obviously this is a fairly small and specific sample and the signs of depression are manifold but these findings are an interesting data point and could help folks who find themselves obsessed with social media and unable to tell why they feel so awful. This could be a reason.
The study appeared in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.