Facebook envy illness
DOES looking at Facebook leave you feeling alone, depressed and woefully lacking i n opportunities t o post videos of your kitten drinking from the toilet?
Do you feel like no one likes you, let alone ‘‘ likes’’ you?
Do you suspect you might do bodily harm to the next ‘‘ friend’’ who feels compelled to tell you and his 900 other close pals how high his kid scored on their latest exam?
T h e n y o u mi g h t h a v e Facebook envy.
Since January, when the US journal Personality and Social Psychiatry Bulletin published a paper about our perceptions of other people’s contentment levels, it’s the malady of the moment – or at least the perfect catchphrase for describing the less-than-friendly feelings we harbour toward certain online acquaintances.
Drawing o n s t udi e s o f Stanford students and their assumptions about the relative happiness or unhappines s o f t hei r p e e r s , r e - searchers found that humans consistently overestimate how much fun others are having and underestimate their unhappiness.
The study had nothing to do with Facebook, but it quickly became associated with the coinage ‘‘ Facebook envy’’, largely because the lead researcher, then a doctoral s t u d e n t i n p s y c h o l o g y , reportedly got the idea from watching his friends’ interactions with the social network. The more time they spent clicking through joyful announcements and photos depicting happy events, the worse they felt about their own lives.
It’s not hard to see how Facebook might chip away at a p e r s o n ’ s s e l f - e s t e e m . Though celebrated – breath- lessly revered, in fact – as a way to bring people together, anyone who’s poked around the site for more than 10 minutes knows it’s also the ultimate performance space. Like holiday newsletters in which families pay unsubtle homage to their own achievements – ‘‘ Dakota won 57 t a e k w o n d o t r o p h i e s ! ’ ’ , ‘ ‘ S o p h i e t o o k w e e k e n d courses in cheese making!’’, ‘‘ Bob passed an impressive kidney stone!’’ – Facebook reminds us that there can be a fine line between sharing and gloating. Sure, some of us manage to leave our egos out of it, limiting our posts to YouTube videos of dogs riding skateboards or birthday wishes to friends whose birthdays we’d be totally unaware of if Facebook didn’t automatically remind us.
Most of us, though, are just hungry for admiration. We post videos from family outings in the hope that people will notice what a functional, loving and attractive clan we are.