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Want to be happy? Stay off Facebook!

1/24/2013 11:10:00 AM

Ever felt that your friends on Facebook are having a better time than you are? You’re not alone. A pair of studies conducted by two German universities found that one in three people had a negative experience when visiting the site, and were often left “feeling lonely, frustrated or angry.”

The first of the studies looked at the scale and nature of ‘envy incidents’ that were triggered by Facebook, and the second looked at how envy was linked to reduced use of Facebook and an overall decrease in life satisfaction.

When it came to the types of Facebook posts that can cause envy, vacation photos were listed as the number one problem. It appears that all those happy, sun-kissed faces on far-away beaches triggered particular resentment among the folks back home, prompting soul-searching and a less-than-flattering comparison with their own more mundane lives.

Next up on the envy chart were the number of ‘likes’ and comments that friends generated for their photos and posts. Much like in high school, those on the outside were left feeling resentful at all the attention being lavished on the popular kids.

The response to these feelings of envy was mixed. Some Facebook users retaliated by boasting of their own achievements in order to portray themselves in a better light. Others withdrew from the site, visiting less often and reducing their posts even further.

Not surprisingly, the studies found that various groups used the social network very differently, and such use prompted different reactions by their peers. People in their mid-30s were more likely to envy family happiness. Men were more likely to envy work and financial accomplishments, while women were more likely to envy attractiveness and active social lives.

The German studies follow similar U.S.-based research that found while having a lot of Facebook friends can give users a superficial feeling of connectedness and belonging, constantly reading upbeat status updates can be a bit of a downer. However, that research also showed that many Facebook users have a tendency to post only good news, or embellish the news that they do post, making their lives seem more interesting and fulfilling than they actually are.

Researchers have also highlighted the potential dangers to teens and younger users of Facebook, who often accumulate large numbers of friends but don’t have the experience or awareness to distinguish between fact and fiction when it comes to other people’s posts.

While there is nothing wrong with having lots of friends on Facebook, it’s easy to be lulled into a fantasy world where everyone’s life seems better than yours. Perhaps the less you know people outside of the Facebook environment, the more you should discount whatever it is they post!

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