A recent study by researchers at the Department of Information Systems of the Darmstadt University of Technology and the Institute of Information Systems at the Humboldt University of Berlin found a significant statistical association between Facebook use and feelings of envy and general dissatisfaction. Over one-third of the respondents in the study described being frustrated, depressed or less confident as they scrolled through their friends’ pictures, statuses and posts. Furthermore, the study found that about one-fifth of the recent events that provoked envy in the respondents’ lives took place on Facebook.
To a certain degree, these results are to be expected. Facebook is not an accurate representation of our lives, but rather a filtered representation. We only show others what we want them to see and vice versa, thus inducing jealousy or envy when considering our own imperfect, ordinary lives. That said, an important implication of the study is the necessity of moderation with regards to social networking and our general online presence.
Furthermore, it is important to recall that Facebook interaction is not a reasonable substitute for personal interaction and should not be treated as such. Social media is inherently vulnerable to significant embellishment, whether of our looks, credentials or experiences. More importantly, it tends to minimize our quotidian imperfections, which ultimately define us. If we continue to compare our real selves to enhanced versions of our friends, we will undoubtedly find ourselves on a path of self-deprecation.
The effects of Facebook usage shown in this study echo the concerns of earlier days regarding the effects of violence in video games, cellphone radiation and food preservatives. Many of these incredible technologies catch on quickly, becoming household names within the blink of an eye, but can have profound health effects that are only discovered years later. Fortunately, the solution here is simple — use social media in moderation. Log out and call a friend.
A version of this article appeared in the Feb. 4 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]