A study by Canadian researchers suggests envy is a key motivator behind Facebook posts. Investigators believe this finding is worrisome as the practice can contribute to a decrease in psychological well-being among users.
Dr. Izak Benbasat, a University of British Columbia School of Business Professor, and his collaborators posit that Facebook use can create a vicious cycle of jealousy and self-importance.
They believe their research supports the argument that Facebook leads users to feel their lives are unfulfilling by comparison to others. As such, people react by creating posts that portray an unrealistic view of self.
The study appears in the journal Information Systems Research.
According to Benbasat, travel photos are a leading contributor to Facebook envy, pushing friends to post their most perfect pictures. He says the unrealistic portrayal of life is not motivated by the desire to make others jealous, but rather a need to compete and keep up appearances.
For the study, Benbasat and his co-authors surveyed 1,193 Facebook users at a German university. They asked students a series of questions about their Facebook habits and cross-referenced them with the feelings they reported when using the platform.
Benbasat says the functionality of social networks encourages envy-inducing behavior, and that’s unlikely to change.
“Sharing pictures and stories about the highlights of your life — that’s so much of what Facebook is for, so you can’t take that away,” he said.
“But I think it’s important for people to know what impact it can have on their well-being. Parents and teachers should take note as young people can be particularly vulnerable to the dark side of social media.”