Facebook envy fuels cycle of self promotion, study finds

A new study shows as young Facebook users click and scroll through their friends’ best selves, the more dissatisfied they may become with their own lives.

UBC, German study pinpoints cycle of envy and self promotion among young adults

Mark Zuckerberg has mentioned in the past that Facebook is hesitant to add a dislike button because it promotes negativity. (Wikimedia)

Status update: Envious.

It's what we've always known anecdotally, but now a new study confirms the more young Facebook users click and scroll through their friends' best selves, the more dissatisfied they may become with their own lives.

Most of us have been there: Up way too late, heading down the Facebook rabbit hole. 'Liking' friends' photos backpacking through Europe, road tripping across the province.

Before you know it, it's #TBT and you've re-posted one of your favourite vacation photos, waiting for the 'likes' to pop up on your notifications. 

Well, according to a new study, you may be caught in a "self-enhancement envy spiral," and envy cleansing strategy of sorts.

"Part of the coping reaction is now you start making yourself look good by posting images, videos and good news about yourself," said Izak Benbasat, professor of Information Systems at UBC's Sauder School of Business. He teamed up with some colleagues in Germany for the study.

"So there's a cycle going on. So you feel envious and now you are  trying to make other people feel envious to compensate."

More than 1,100 Facebook users at a German university were recruited for the two-part study, asked about their habits and feelings when it comes to the social media network. Researchers wanted to dive into the darker side of social media — the negative feelings people experience when consuming content on the network.

Sauder School of Business Professor Izak Benbasat collaborated with colleagues in Germany for the Facebook study. (Chantelle Bellrichard)

"Most people when asked what kind of negative feelings they have when they use Facebook, about 25 per cent will mention envy," said Benbasat.

"But if you ask them about what others feel when they're using Facebook the number becomes 50 per cent."

So what creates envy? According to the study, seeing a friend's travel photos is the most common culprit. But social media habits also play a role.

Benbasat says the more you consume information on Facebook, the more likely you are to feel envy, and other negative emotions.

To hear more from Izak Benbasat, click the link: Facebook envy and the cycle of self promotion


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.