Posted January 23, 2013 6:54 pm by with 1 comment

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Think about the last time you were on Facebook. Maybe you skimmed through photos of your sister’s vacation in Hawaii and your best friend’s new baby. Marvin posted that he got a new job and he’s so excited. Susan has a new boyfriend and a publisher just bought her first book. It’s wonderful. It’s inspiring. It’s enough to make you want to jump off a tall building into a small, damp sponge.

If you came away from Facebook feeling anything less than joyful, you are not alone.

Social scientists at Humboldt University in Berlin and Darmstadt’s Technical University asked students to describe how they felt after paying a visit to the world’s most popular online hang out. The results surprised me, but only because I thought I was the only “glass half empty” person on the planet who felt this way.

facebook negative

Since I am a “glass half empty” person, my eye immediately goes to the 36.9% of people who came away with negative feelings. They’re not the majority, but the numbers are darned close. Boredom is understandable, especially if you hit the site multiple times a day and there’s nothing exciting or new. But angry? Frustrated? It gets worse.

They asked the frustrated people to explain why they were frustrated.

facebook frustrationsAlmost 30% said they felt envious of their friends after visiting Facebook. Bound to happen. The majority of photos that are uploaded to the site depict happy situations – parties, vacations, a beautiful sunset over a beach. If people would upload negative photos, it would balance out. Pictures of their messy kitchen, the new dent in the car, the sign that says All Flights Delayed. Maybe the guy sitting in Minnesota in January wouldn’t feel so bad if his friend in Florida uploaded photos of hurricane damage on a regular basis.

Lack of attention is another big problem. Almost 20% of respondents felt like they weren’t being heard and if you add in the loneliness line it goes up to 30%. Funny, isn’t it? A site that’s all about being social, about communicating with others, is leaving folks feeling isolated and unloved.

Face it, we’ve become addicted to comments and Likes and instant messages. It makes us feel better when we’re acknowledged by others but with so many people competing for the same few minutes of attention, people are going to get left out.

After reviewing all the data, the researchers come to a terrifying conclusion:

Triggered by over-exposure to social information on a SNS (Social Network Site), envy feelings can cause significant damage to users’ well-being and impact their life satisfaction [11]. Indeed, past research from social psychology reveals that envy may lead to frustration [13], mental suffering [14] and even depression [15], [16]. To limit their contact with envy-inducing information, users may consciously reduce platform use, as described for other contexts by past research on organizational psychology [17]. This, however, is undesirable for SNS providers, who face significant pressures to maintain a stable user base.

In other words, if we keep going where we’re going, people will start to shun Facebook rather than face another sweet picture of a baby covered in spaghetti and that’s bad for social media marketers.

Perhaps the only way around this is the old adage, “misery loves company.” How far do you think you’d get if you ran a marketing campaign  featuring the crummy side of life. Nothing to be envious about here, folks, just buy the product and move on.

Thanks to the LA Times for the tip.


  • It’s interesting that some users feel that they aren’t being acknowledged on Facebook. Likes and comments have become a new for of validation that many people seek.