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HempThe social media site, Face­book, can be an effec­tive tool for con­nect­ing with new and old friends. How­ever, some users may find them­selves spend­ing quite a bit of time view­ing Face­book and may inevitably begin com­par­ing what’s hap­pen­ing in their lives to the activ­i­ties and accom­plish­ments of their friends.

Accord­ing to Uni­ver­sity of Hous­ton (UH) researcher Mai-​Ly Steers, this kind of social com­par­i­son paired with the amount of time spent on Face­book may be linked to depres­sive symp­toms. Steers’ research on the topic is pre­sented in the arti­cle, “See­ing Every­one Else’s High­light Reels: How Face­book Usage is Linked to Depres­sive Symp­toms” pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Social and Clin­i­cal Psy­chol­ogy.
“Although social com­par­i­son processes have been exam­ined at length in tra­di­tional con­texts, the lit­er­a­ture is only begin­ning to explore social com­par­isons in online social net­work­ing set­tings,” said Steers, a doc­toral can­di­date in social psy­chol­ogy at UH. Steers con­ducted two stud­ies to inves­ti­gate how social com­par­i­son to peers on Face­book might impact users’ psy­cho­log­i­cal health. Both stud­ies pro­vide evi­dence that Face­book users felt depressed when com­par­ing them­selves to oth­ers. “It doesn’t mean Face­book causes depres­sion, but that depressed feel­ings and lots of time on Face­book and com­par­ing one­self to oth­ers tend to go hand in hand,” said Steers.
The first study found an asso­ci­a­tion between time spent on Face­book and depres­sive symp­toms for both gen­ders. How­ever, the results demon­strated that mak­ing Face­book social com­par­isons medi­ated the link between time spent on Face­book and depres­sive symp­toms for men only. Sim­i­larly, the sec­ond study found a rela­tion­ship between the amount of time spent on Face­book and depres­sive symp­toms was medi­ated by social com­par­isons on Face­book. Unlike the first study, gen­der did not mod­er­ate these asso­ci­a­tions.
The con­cept of social com­par­i­son is not new. In fact, it has been stud­ied in face-​to-​face con­texts since the 1950’s. How­ever, engag­ing in social com­par­isons on online social media sites may make peo­ple feel even worse
“One dan­ger is that Face­book often gives us infor­ma­tion about our friends that we are not nor­mally privy to, which gives us even more oppor­tu­ni­ties to socially com­pare,” Steers said. “You can’t really con­trol the impulse to com­pare because you never know what your friends are going to post. In addi­tion, most of our Face­book friends tend to post about the good things that occur in their lives, while leav­ing out the bad. If we’re com­par­ing our­selves to our friends’ ‘high­light reels,’ this may lead us to think their lives are bet­ter than they actu­ally are and con­versely, make us feel worse about our own lives.”

Steers said that peo­ple afflicted with emo­tional dif­fi­cul­ties may be par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to depres­sive symp­toms due to Face­book social com­par­i­son after spend­ing more time on medium. For already dis­tressed indi­vid­u­als, this dis­torted view of their friends’ lives may make them feel alone in their inter­nal strug­gles, which may com­pound their feel­ings of lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion.

“This research and pre­vi­ous research indi­cates the act of socially com­par­ing one­self to oth­ers is related to long-​term destruc­tive emo­tions. Any ben­e­fit gained from mak­ing social com­par­isons is tem­po­rary and engag­ing in fre­quent social com­par­i­son of any kind may be linked to lower well-​being,” said Steers.

Steers hopes the results of these stud­ies will help peo­ple under­stand that tech­no­log­i­cal advances often pos­sess both intended and unin­tended con­se­quences. Fur­ther, she hopes her research will help guide future inter­ven­tions that tar­get the reduc­tion of Face­book use among those at risk for depression.{jcomments on}

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