Status Envy

Facebook and feelings of inadequacy.

It’s called “surveillance use,” a Facebook phenomenon that researchers say involves obsessively checking the social-media site to see how your life and activities compare to those of your friends. This behavior, says Margaret Duffy, professor and chair of strategic communication at the MU School of Journalism, can make you :-(.

Working with Edson Tandoc, a former MU doctoral student who is now an assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and Patrick Ferrucci, a former doctoral student who now serves as an assistant professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder, Duffy surveyed some 700 college-age Facebook users. She found that those who engage in surveillance use of Facebook were more likely to experience symptoms of depression than those who used the site simply to stay connected.

“Facebook can be a fun and healthy activity if users take advantage of the site to stay connected with family and old friends and to share interesting and important aspects of their lives,” Duffy said. “However, if Facebook is used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship—things that cause envy among users—use of the site can lead to feelings of depression.”

Adds Tandoc: “Users should be [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. This self-awareness, hopefully, can lessen feelings of envy.”

The study was published in the February issue of Computers in Human Behavior.

Status Envy Art by Ross MacDonald

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