BEACON TRANSCRIPT – If you’re one of the more than 1.5 billion Facebook users, you might not be the only one thinking the social media platform is simply a miserable place to hang out.
In the same vein, if you’ve ever considered dropping off the face of social networking because of Facebook – or even did it – a new study might have the answer as to why: it’s nothing else but good, old-fashioned envy.
Prof. Izak Benbasat of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia has collaborated with researchers at the Universität Bern in Switzerland and the Technische Universität Darmstadt in Germany to find out why our self-esteem drops after each scroll on Facebook, and his findings shouldn’t surprise us.
After surveying 1,193 Facebook users, Benbasat discovered that many posts are powered by envy and that each post can contribute to a “decrease in mental well-being among users.” There is a growing body of research linking the platform with a general state of unhappiness and discontent with one’s life.
It’s human nature to feel your life isn’t as interesting after scrolling through pictures of your friends – pictures of the best version of themselves, either vacationing or partying or doing something you wish you could be doing. This in turn launches an inadvertent cycle of jealousy and self-importance, to which we respond with even more posts that portray our best selves.
Facebook – and other social platforms – has become the home of virtual one-upping, a game that started innocently. Even though we don’t actually mean to make friends and family jealous, presenting a picture-perfect lifestyle does cause expectations for other people and their lives.
Younger users are most vulnerable to this kind of influences, because they don’t always see behind the façade of the not-so-realistic pictures and lifestyles. Their mental health can become fragile and caught up in a storm of envy, narcissism, depression on social pressure.
It’s not just Facebook; Snapchat and Instagram often promote unattainable standards of always looking “perfect,” said June Eric Udorie of The Guardian. Benbasat explained it’s unrealistic to want to get around the negatives, but it’s possible for people to learn about the impact social media can have on their well-being.
Parents should talk to their teenagers about the effects that come with being exposed to the dark side of social media, and try and understand how destructive it can be. That is not to say that Facebook should not be used, but raise awareness about the negative consequences of social media participation.
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