Study shows some suffer from 'Facebook envy'

Academic paper shows how some social network users are feeling more dejected than happy after viewing friends' profiles.

CBS News staff
2 min read

Is Facebook making you sad? While most people log on to find out what's going on, a new study reveals that peering into the lives of your peers is making people look at themselves, and some aren't happy with what they see.

"Early Show" technology expert Katie Linendoll noted that, over the last five years, social-networking sites like Facebook have become the place we share our lives publicly with family and friends. The more than 500 million user profiles feature images and updates of people enjoying the best moments of their lives.

However, a new study suggests these sites could actually have a negative impact on your mood, and end up causing more distress than happiness.

"Misery Has More Company Than People Think," a paper in the January issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, combines several studies on how college students evaluate moods, both their own and those of their peers. The researchers found their subjects consistently underestimated how dejected others were--and likely wound up feeling more dejected as a result.

Psychologist Dr. David Swanson told CBS News, "What you put on display is how great your life is--the cars you drive, the vacations you go on. Nobody's life is that perfect and so, whenever you start to compare your life to those images, you're going to be depressed, because you're going to feel like your life is lacking."

Linendoll pointed out, "Most of us tend to play up the positive aspects of our lives while excluding the negative. The result is that a Facebook profile never tells the whole story. And we end up comparing ourselves to a one-dimensional version of someone else's life."

Alex Jordan, who led the studies while a Ph.D. student in Stanford's psychology department, told CBS News, "If we could overcome the need to compare ourselves to other people--to keep up with the Joneses, then maybe these effects described (in the study) wouldn't be a problem."

Jordan is now a psychologist at Dartmouth College.

Linendoll said, "So just remember, the next time you log on and get 'Facebook envy,' the reality of one's life may not be as glamorous as their profile posts--or boasts."

This story originally appeared on CBSNews.com.