Your old friend from high school just announced her engagement on Facebook. So why don't you feel happier for her? According to new research, it turns out that pouring over friends' vacation photos, gushing status updates, and career successes is making people miserable.
In a study conducted by Humboldt University in Berlin and Technical University in Darmstadt, German researchers asked 600 Facebook users how they felt while navigating the social networking platform. More than a third of the respondents reported feeling negative, but it had nothing to do with Facebook's ever-changing privacy policies and advertisements—most of those bad vibes were rooted in jealousy.
"We were surprised by how many people have a negative experience from Facebook, with envy leaving them feeling lonely, frustrated or angry," Hanna Krasnova of the Institute of Information Systems at Humboldt University told Reuters. (She was the project manager for the report, "Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users' Life Satisfaction?" which was released on Tuesday and will be presented at a conference in Germany in February.)
In Germany, where travel is a favorite leisure activity, vacation photos were a big envy trigger. The researchers also found that Facebook users in their 30s were likely to feel jealous about their friends' happy families. Women were more likely to obsess over physical appearance and social standing, and men tended to boast about their accomplishments at home and at work.
Passive Facebook users—people who read their news feeds, peeked at photos, and browsed their friends pages but didn't share much themselves—were the ones most likely to feel bad, the researchers discovered.