Social Comparisons on Facebook May Cause Depressive Symptoms

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Spending a lot of time on the social media site Facebook coupled with making social comparisons may lead to depressive symptoms, according to a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

Previous studies have explored social comparison processes, but researchers have only recently begun to focus on how these processes play out in social media settings.

The researchers conducted two studies. In the first study, they found that both men and women had an association between time spent on Facebook and depressive symptoms. In men only, they also found that making social comparisons while on the site increased these symptoms.

The second study had results similar to the first study. Both men and women showed an association between time spent on Facebook and depressive symptoms. However, in this study, both men and women showed a link between making social comparisons and feeling depressed.

“Most of our Facebook friends tend to post about the good things that occur in their lives, while leaving out the bad,” said researcher Mai-Ly Steers, a PhD candidate at the University of Houston, “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.”

The researchers hope that the results can help identify potential interventions for Facebook-use reduction in individuals who are at risk for depression.

Facebook Envy Can Cause Depression Symptoms
Social Comparisons on Facebook May Cause Depressive Symptoms

The 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.

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