The dangers of too much Facebook

by Rose Sneyd25 Jan 2013

We’ve all logged onto Facebook only to be confronted with images of a “friend” tanning themselves on an exotic beach, on the ski slopes in Japan, or wandering the streets of Vienna. Now there’s a study that has proved there’s ubiquity in the eye-rolling, envious reaction we tend to feel… and this reaction has some interesting side effects.

Researchers from Humboldt University and Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany undertook two studies that revealed that one in three people experienced mainly negative emotions upon visiting the site. And, as the researchers noted in their introduction, envy can lead to frustration, mental suffering, and even depression – things you’d normally want to avoid introducing to the workplace.

The first study looked at the ‘scale, scope and nature of envy’ on Facebook using a short online survey of closed and open-ended questions. The second investigated the role that Facebook envy played in users’ ‘life satisfaction’ using a follow-up online survey.

The most common sources of envy were, unsurprisingly, vacation photos – accounting for half of the envy incidents. This was followed by social interactions, ie. the number of birthday greetings a “friend” received or how many people “liked” their posts, and evidence of happy family and romantic relationships.

The researchers explained that Facebook provided an unprecedented platform for comparisons that led to envy. “[Social networking sites] offer users easy and transparent means to compare and “benchmark” themselves against their peers, inducing them to engage in social comparison,” they wrote in the study.

On the other hand, they also found that users who experienced negative emotions were more likely to abandon or reduce their use of Facebook. “From our observations some of these people will then leave Facebook or at least reduce their use of the site,” Hanna Krasnova, of Humboldt University, told Reuters.

In that case, it might be in your staff’s best of interests to allow them to use Facebook as much as they like, in order to reduce Facebook envy in the long-term!