Social Media Envy
There are many positive aspects to social media. Indeed, it is a wonderful way to stay connected with family and friends, some have met their soulmate through dating apps, it can be used to bring communities together for a good cause, share information, and a place of support.
Many of us who use social media may also be very familiar with a term called “social media envy.” You know this feeling. You feel it when scrolling through your feed and you see Rebecca skiing down the pristine Swiss Alps with her saucy French boyfriend who is also a Neurosurgeon with a six-pack. Of course you see this post at 10pm when you just came home from a long day of work at the job you hate and you can’t remember the last time you had a day off.
You might feel this social media envy when you see 13 BILLION people congratulating Tommy for his stellar job promotion, or when you see the super delicious dinner that John cooked with his 3 amazing piano prodigy children. No matter who you are or who you follow, chances are you’ve felt at least a grain of social media envy at some point.
What is Envy
Tai et al (2012) defines envy as, “pain at another’s good fortune.” While there are many emotions similar to envy, jealousy is probably one of the most similar ones.
Smith and Kim (2007) differentiate that envy occurs when someone else has something we long for or want; and jealousy being fear of the loss of something we already have to someone else. An envious lover would be one that wants a different partner, while a jealous lover would be afraid of anyone taking their significant loved one.
Envy can lead to many negative emotions. Envy can become aggressive, volatile, and hostile (Schoeck et al., 1969, Smith & Kim, 2007). Envy can also affect our mental health and lead to symptoms of depression (Tandoc Jr. et al., 2015).
Envy and Depression
There are many studies about social media that have mixed findings regarding the relationship between social media and depression. The key component is envy. When an individual begins to develop feelings of envy while using social media, this envy leads to symptoms of depression. The study also found that prolonged “heavy” use of social media is more likely to induce feelings of envy than brief or “light” use. The reason being that heavy use of social media means a longer amount of time viewing everyone else leaving more opportunity for comparison (Chou & Edge, 2012).
Taming the Green Monster
There are a variety of things we can do to keep our social media envy in check. Here are a few suggestions and ideas to help keep social media social and a positive place to connect with others, instead of it being a negative experience full of envy.
Post, don’t Scroll- Be active in your social media use rather than passive. Instead of being solely a viewer, be a poster. This can give you more opportunity to receive positive comments, likes, and affirmation. It could also give you a little push to go out and do something “post worthy” or discover the “post worthy” things you already have going on in your life.
Social Media Fast- Fast or abstain from social media for a designated amount of time. Instead make an effort for face-to-face contact, phone calls, letter writing, or have some relaxing “me time.”
Limit your time- If you know you’re a “heavy” use and managing your social media time is a struggle, set a timer. Some social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook have features to let you know how much time you’ve spent on social media.
Find balance and meaning in your social media experience. Social media can be a wonderful contribution to a full life, but doesn’t have to consume your every thought or be the reason for enjoying life.
Chou and Edge, 2012
H.-T.G. Chou, N. Edge“They are happier and having better lives than I am”: The impact of using Facebook on perceptions of others’ lives
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15 (2) (2012), pp. 117-121
Schoeck et al., 1969
H. Schoeck, M. Glenny, B. Ross Envy: A theory of social behaviour Harcourt, Brace & World New York (1969)
Smith and Kim, 2007
R.H. Smith, S.H. Kim Comprehending envy. Psychological Bulletin, 133 (1) (2007), pp. 46-64, 10.1037/0033-2909.133.1.46
Tai, K., Narayanan, J., & McAllister, D. (2012). Envy as pain: Rethinking the nature of envy
and its implications for employees and organizations. The Academy of Management Review, 37(1), 107-129. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23218854
Tandoc Jr., Edson C., Patrick Ferrucci, and Margaret Duffy (2015). “Facebook Use, Envy, and
Depression among College Students: Is Facebooking Depressing?,” Computers in Human Behavior 43: 139–146.