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Facebook bad for your health?

August 22, 2013

On a really reaaaaaaaally long flight home this week, I picked up “The Economist” (August 17, 2013) and found an article titled “Get a Life!” – subtitle – ‘Facebook is bad for you.’

For being a “social” network, researchers have found that

“…using Facebook is associated with jealousy, social tension, isolation and depression.”

Anyone I know with teen daughters seems to observe this dynamic on an almost daily basis. The researchers found that the more someone used Facebook over the time of two different studies, the more they saw a decline in satisfaction with their lives. There was a positive association between the amount of direct social contact a volunteer had and how positive they felt….but Facebook was a downer

Dr Kross and Dr Verduyn therefore conclude that, rather than enhancing well being, Facebook undermines it”

Why? The most common emotion that was raised as a result of using Facebook was envy.

Envy is a very ugly thing – a close cousin to jealousy. Doing a quick Google search for “Overcoming envy” I found every religion, spirituality and psychology had tips on overcoming envy. Most surprising entry – “Overcoming envy for Stoics”. Most irony challenged: Cosmo…yeah, seriously. A magazine “for women” that needs to put cardboard over the cover in supermarkets because of the skimpy outfits on the cover – dishing advice on overcoming envy?!??

From another blogger

Envy does something very strange and ugly. When I look at your success or your money or your joy, that good thing makes me feel bad. It somehow calls me into question, it taunts me, it makes me doubt myself, it even makes me doubt God. When I see your success, it makes me think less of myself. It calls into question all that I am, all that I’ve done, all that I’ve accomplished, all that I’ve worked for. It becomes an issue of my own identity. Your success screams that I have failed…

Dorothy Sayers says it well: “Envy is the great leveler: if it cannot level things up, it will level them down … rather than have anyone happier than itself, it will see us all miserable together.”

I did a search on “Facebook and envy” – wow. Lots of links there – “top 5 ways to reduce Facebook envy” from all sorts of sites, psychologists, news sources.

Two interesting points to close

  1. – the people in the studies were all under the age of 30
  2. – the age of regular Facebook users has been rising. The assumption has been that Facebook is “uncool” for the under-30 crowd who’ve moved on to “cooler sites where their parents aren’t online”

The studies do call into question the assumption on #2. Perhaps the issue for that age group is simply that Facebook is too stressful?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2013 9:06 pm

    I will say that when a FB friend has posted about his/her race training, I am more likely to get my sorry butt out for a run that day.

    Is that jealousy motivating me? Or healthy motivation?

    Whatever burns the cals, me recks.

  2. August 23, 2013 8:40 am

    As a guy who’s on Facebook all too often, I have to say that I don’t envy what I see people do more than when I hear it elsewhere. But it’s a wider circle of info, so I get a lot more. I’m pretty much with you that it’s a problem with the personality that gets envious, and the flow of data makes it that much harder to ignore what can be bothersome.

    I wouldn’t say it’s limited to people under 30, though. I would guess that plenty of older people are drowning in the info stream.

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