Facebook, the popular social networking site, can be an effective tool for connecting with new and old friends. However, a new study by researchers at University of Houston (UH) has revealed how social comparison and amount of time spent on Facebook impacts an individuals' mental health. They found that Facebook users felt depressed when comparing themselves to others.
Researcher Mai-Ly Steers said, "This kind of social comparison paired with the amount of time spent on Facebook may be linked 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. 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. 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. People can't really control the impulse to compare because you never know what your friends are going to post."
Steers noted, "Most of our Facebook friends tend to post about the good things that occur in their lives, while leaving out the bad. If people are comparing themselves to their friends' highlight reels, this may lead them to think their lives are better than they actually are and conversely, make them feel worse about their own lives. 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."
The study appears in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.