Our Facebook personas can veer from who we authentically are and the actual reality of our personal lives. On the positive side, Facebook connects people who have once shared an experience. You can become more involved in the lives of your long-distance cousin and her young family or easily stay in touch with an old friend. On the negative side, Facebook is a space where people want to display the best of themselves and their lives, which can arouse feelings of envy, loneliness and inadequacy within outsiders. As you nonchalantly scroll through your Facebook newsfeed, photos of your friend’s birthday party pop up. As you click through fun pictures of friends dancing at festive parties full of lavish birthday decorations, your heart sinks — because you weren’t invited.
TIME Magazine’s Heartland reports that scientists from two German universities concluded that after studying 600 Facebook users, “one in three felt worse after visiting the site — especially if they viewed vacation photos.” Researchers discovered that users who didn’t post their own content were also more likely to feel discontent. It seems to be like emotional self-sabotage when people have negative experiences by logging onto Facebook, yet continue to do so.
In addition to feelings of social exclusion, you may subconsciously make comparisons to yourself with other people as you are subjected to posts and photos. Drawing comparisons can cause insecurities and make you question yourself. Feelings of loneliness and self-pity can surface just by seeing a simple Facebook status that changes from “single” to “into a relationship.” Perhaps you read a status about an old friend getting a job promotion, and suddenly you’re comparing your professional worth to someone whom you probably haven’t talked to in years. Commonly, young people also internally respond to engagements, wedding photos and pregnancy announcements with negative feelings and virtual, societal pressure to move on to that next step in life. Just as unhealthily, Facebook serves as a tool for many to be passive aggressive and indirectly spiteful. To be on the receiving end of a message meant to hurtfully get your attention can feel like a dagger in the chest.
Facebook is Subjective
According to Reuters, Institute Information Systems at Berlin’s Humboldt University research expert, Hanna Krasnova, said based on observations on negative social networking experiences, “people will then leave Facebook or at least reduce their use of the site.”
People experience anger, resentment, stress and jealousy over all types of Facebook timeline activities such as:
- Vacation photos
- Number of birthday wishes
- Number of “likes” and comments on postings
- Family happiness
- Physical attractiveness
- Work accomplishments
If Facebook feels like a toxic digital environment that personally affects you, eliminate those negative feelings by taking control of your own behavior. Deactivate your account, visit the site less often or make an effort to not internalize specific types of content that creates unhealthy emotions. Users who use Facebook as a platform for self-promotion are most likely to share content on Facebook that will “portray themselves in a better light.” In that case, photos and posts can be like judging a book by its cover. Things aren’t always as they seem.