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Your Facebook friend is secretly jealous of your vacation in Hawaii

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Facebook provokes envious feelings, according to a study by German researchers of Humboldt University in Berlin. If you’re looking for a pick-me-up, turns out you should steer clear of social network browsing.

We tend to put on our best face when we’re sharing content to social networks, and this narcissistic behavior can have unseen consequences. The News Feed is full of vacation photos in exotic destinations, career accomplishments, and photos with friends. It’s a collection of the best parts of our lives rolled into one place – so when someone feels their own existence falls short of these virtual moments, it can be a bit of a downer.  

Social networks encourage seamless sharing, bridging relationships effortlessly. But there are “negative repercussions these developments bring along” that researchers have classified to include jealousy, social tension, social overload, isolation, and depression. It’s not hard to look at a photo of friend’s glamorous night out in the city, when you’ve stayed in at home by yourself with your computer, and feel jealous. There’s been plenty of talk about this effect before, and it’s been loosely termed FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. 

The research was based on a study of 357 German students of which 1 in 3 users cited jealousy as the leading cause of Facebook-induced bad feelings. “Travel and leisure,” “social interactions,” and “happiness” were the top three categories that triggered these envious feelings. Interestingly enough, based on the same study, the “travel and leisure” category was found to be in the top three categories for offline envy as well. In other words, try to stay away from photographs of or even just talking about your friend’s sojourns to tropical islands until you’re in a better mood.

According to the study, women tend to envy physical attractiveness, and middle-aged users envy family happiness. But a good mark to go off of is that in general envy most frequently occurs among users that share similar characteristics – gender, social status, cultural background – as their peers, “since they provide a suitable reference group for self-evaluation.”

Envy can lead to a downward spiral of self-regret that might be difficult to get out of with very real dangers that include “frustration and exhaustion, and damaging individual life satisfaction.” It doesn’t help that there’s an observed phenomenon of narcissistic behavior that’s taken root in our digitally connected society, which the researchers cite as the “self-promotion envy-spiral.” Photos of accomplishments and trips are socially acceptable types of “narcissistic” content that we frequently find popping up on the News Feed – which, in turn, causes feelings of envy. And the cycle continues. 

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