Use of the social media sites like Facebook can lead to symptoms of depression if it triggers feelings of envy among its users, according to a study by researchers at the University of Missouri.
The researchers surveyed young Facebook users and found that people who engage in 'surveillance use' of Facebook experience symptoms of depression while those who use the site simply to stay connected do not suffer negative effects. Surveillance use of Facebook occurs when people browse the website to see how their friends are doing compared with their own lives. The researchers found that Facebook postings about things such as expensive vacations, new houses or cars, or happy relationships can evoke feelings of envy among such surveillance users, and these feelings of envy can then lead to Facebook users experiencing symptoms of depression.
Researcher Margaret Duffy said, "Facebook can be a fun and healthy activity if users take advantage of the site to stay connected with family and old friends and to share interesting and important aspects of their lives. However, if it is used to see how well an acquaintance was doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship or other such things that cause envy among users can lead to feelings of depression."
Researcher Edson Tandoc said, "Social media literacy is important. Based on our study, as well as on what others have previously found, using Facebook can exert positive effects on well-being. But when it triggers envy among users, that's a different story."
There should be self-awareness among the users that positive self-presentation is an important motivation in using social media, and so it is to be expected that many users would only post positive things about themselves.