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Envy Motivates Facebook Users To Create Unrealistic Posts to Compete With Friends

Envy is an important motivating factor for Facebook posts, says a new study conducted by researchers from Sauder School of Business. The emotion would also be a cause of decreased mental well-being. The findings are published in Information Systems Research.


The concept of social online networks being a double-edged sword has been brought up yet again in a research.

Professor Izak Benbasat, the lead author, explains that the causes behind the association between negative emotions like depression, anxiety and narcissism and social media have remained unexplained. Therefore, the team carried out a survey involving 1,193 Facebook users from a German university; the Facebook habits and feelings of the volunteers were thus recorded.

The researchers thereafter conclude from the results that envy appears to motivate the users to create posts that would display the best of themselves. A vicious cycle is set in motion: users feel envy when viewing others’ posts and ‘retaliate’ by coming up with posts of their own punctuated by self-importance.

Benbasat believes travel photos constitute a main cause of Facebook envy – users feel the need to share the pictures they deem best, often being an unrealistic image of their lives. This motivation is not stirred by the want to make others feel jealous, but, rather, to compete with them. The Professor adds that the way social networks operate promotes envy-inducing behaviour.

Is this going to change any time soon? Benbasat is not convinced of positive changes.
He does have a word of caution for parents and teachers though: he believes they should take account of the vulnerability of young people to the negative allures of social media.


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