This new study reveals that envy is rampant on Facebook. To be precise, “The spread and ubiquitous presence of envy on Social Networking Sites is shown to undermine users' life satisfaction."
In fact, we are so jealous of our social counterparts that we feel less happy with our own lives after spending our mornings with social media. We also embellish our own public lives. Just a little. Maybe. To keep up.
When I first heard that people were dissatisfied with their time on Facebook, I thought, duh, if I see one more post on a) the presidential election, b) gun control, or c) I Haz Cheezburger-style grammar, I might actually purchase one of those guns and go postal on my laptop. (After which, of course, I would post the video on Facebook.)
But no, the two sources of unhappiness surprised me. They were looking at other peoples' vacation photos and checking how many times other people were wished Happy Birthday.
What? Someone actually sits around doing that? Counting birthday posts? I am beginning to see why those people might have life satisfaction issues. They have no life.
The interesting point getting less press is that envy and dissatisfaction were linked to how much the person actually interacts on Facebook. Lurkers feel more envy. A lot more. The more people simply look at your vacation photos without interacting with you personally, the more they envy you. The more they spend their time counting 'Likes' as opposed to talking to people they like, the more unhappy they are.
We did not need a German study to tell us this. Common sense should point us in that direction, though sense is far less than common these days.
Sense would tell me that it's easier to compare myself to someone and envy them when I have never really talked to them, never discovered their hurts, dreams, and common threads. It has never occurred to me to envy my friends' vacation photos and birthday wishes because I am genuinely happy when they are happy. I have made their happiness a part of my life. (Also because most of us, if we're honest, are annoyed by 500 birthday notifications ringing through on our phones all day.)
If we choose to watch other people live their lives rather than living our own, we are unhappy. This is not new to Facebook world. It's just more easily accessible.
Maybe rather than cause some people to tone down their vacation pics or others to ramp up their stories to compete, this study should call us to recognize that our happiness is in our own hands, not those of our “friends.”
We can choose to compare lives or we can choose to make lives.
Making a life doesn't mean streaking off to the Bahamas or Paris and then posting pictures. It means finding the richness we have where we are by interacting with life and with others rather than watching then live. It means to stop observing and saying “I wish” and start jumping in, saying, “I will.”
I will. What do you want to jump into today?