The article titled “Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms” was published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.
Facebook can be extremely effective as a tool to connect and catch up with old friends and even to make new ones. However, some users say they find themselves spending huge amounts of time viewing their friends’ feeds, which leads to an increased dissatisfaction about their own lives, activities and accomplishments. Researchers explain that this kind of social comparison plus the amount of time spent online in Facebook may be connected to depressive symptoms.
“Although social comparison processes have been examined at length in traditional contexts, the literature is only beginning to explore social comparisons in online social networking settings,” stated lead author Dr. Mai-Ly N. Steers, as it can be read in a news release from UH.
Two studies were conducted to assess how this constant social comparison between peers through Facebook may impact users’ psychological health, revealing that Facebook users felt depressed as a result of these comparisons. “It doesn’t mean Facebook causes depression, but that depressed feelings and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand in hand,” noted Dr. Steers.
This concept of social comparison is not new, as it already existed before social networks and has been assessed in face-to-face contexts since the 1950s. Despite this, social comparisons online came to enhance the way people feel on this matter. The researcher added, “One danger is that Facebook often gives us information about our friends that we are not normally privy to, which gives us even more opportunities to socially compare. You can’t really control the impulse to compare because you never know what your friends are going to post. In addition, most of our Facebook friends tend to post about the good things that occur in their lives, while leaving out the bad. If we’re comparing ourselves to our friends’ ‘highlight reels,’ this may lead us to think their lives are better than they actually are and conversely, make us feel worse about our own lives.”
People with emotional difficulties might be more susceptible to feel these depressive symptoms. For those who are already distressed, this distorted view of how their friends live their lives may make them experience more feelings of isolation and loneliness. “This research and previous research indicates the act of socially comparing oneself to others is related to long-term destructive emotions. Any benefit gained from making social comparisons is temporary and engaging in frequent social comparison of any kind may be linked to lower well-being,” concluded Dr. Steers.
The researcher hopes these results will increase awareness on the consequences of over-using these social network technologies.