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.
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.