Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Envy and Your Facebook Feed

Social media and envy aren't a good mix.

Source: StockSnap/pixabay

When you have a few moments to kill, do you automatically get out your phone and start scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed? I actively avoid this. If I catch myself getting sucked in (i.e. if I opened up the app to look at something specific and then get lured into scrolling), I stop.

Why does it matter?

I have a history of depression and can start to slip mood-wise if I’m careless about my choices. I’m careful to avoid things that have a negative impact on mood, such as lack of sleep, too much alcohol, crappy food, lack of exercise, and spending time on social media (particularly aimless scrolling).

There’s a growing body of research that demonstrates that Facebook and other social media platforms negatively affect mood and well-being. A recent longitudinal study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that both “liking” the content of others and clicking on links predicted a reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health and life satisfaction. They also concluded that the observed declines in well-being are a result of quantity of use, not just quality.

Another study published in 2016 in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that taking a one week break from Facebook increased overall life satisfaction and positive emotions. In addition, they found that people who tend to envy others on Facebook were more likely to experience a negative impact (and a positive impact from avoiding it).

So, envy and Facebook. Where do you fit into the picture? Are you an envy-er...or do you provoke envy? Maybe both?

The envy aspect of social media has bothered me for a while. Sure, I sometimes feel envy when looking at the carefully curated lives of others. Sometimes I can’t believe the things that people post. Do they not realize how it may make others feel? Of course, some people want to provoke envy. In doing so, they feel good (or momentarily better?) about themselves and their lives. I read somewhere that there has been an uptick in vacations and dining out, tied to the increasing desire across our culture to impress others through posted images.

I cringe at some of the things I have unthinkingly posted in the past, blindly following the example of the crowd. These days I think before I post: Could this provoke envy? Might this make someone feel bad about or dissatisfied with their circumstances?

I don’t post vacation photos. I don’t share photos from special meals out. I don’t post about major professional milestones or accomplishments. In some ways I’m probably a holier-than-thou social media Scrooge now, and I still might inadvertently cause negative emotions with some things that I post (though I hope not). I want to continue to participate, to stay connected to people through this medium, but don’t want to contribute to the demise in well-being and life satisfaction that occurs as a result of these platforms.

How about you?

Do you notice a negative impact on your thoughts, mood and life satisfaction when you scroll?

Have you given thought to how the things you post might negatively impact others?

Could there be a way of posting and participating in social media which would be less curated, more real, and less about showing off?

Let’s start setting a trend in that direction. Join me?

Copyright Dr. Susan Biali Haas 2017

More from Susan Biali Haas M.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Susan Biali Haas M.D.
More from Psychology Today