Study: Reading About Facebook Friends’ Lives Can Cause Sadness

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – When you go on Facebook, does it sound like all of your friends are leading fabulous lives and yours is just kind of ordinary?

It’s not unusual for many of us to have felt a little down after going online and reading posts about exotic trips and romantic relationships.

These overly positive declarations can make a Facebooker miss the ones which described someone’s lunch.

Blogger Andy Ostroy hates social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, even though he uses them. He thinks they make people phony

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports.

“It allows people to say ‘I have a thousand friends’ and the truth is you don’t have a thousand friends. Try calling them at two in the morning when you need something,” he said.

Many people are having similar reactions to what they see online. It’s causing a syndrome called “Social Compensation.”

Psychology professor Joanna Davilla, PH.D explained this phenomenon: “Who’s married? Who’s having children?

Who’s doing well in their career? When you see people having things you don’t, or that you have and are not going as well, it can make you feel worse, and much more likely to be depressed.”

Several studies now suggest that the virtual world may leave many of us feeling more isolated, and even sad.
Davilla said this is particularly true for younger people who can have a tougher time keeping all these rosy posts in context.

“One of the things we are finding is that there are people who are at a greater risk to the negative interactions,” said Davilla.

Psychologists say the first line of defense is to not believe everything you read online. Second, don’t get wrapped up in the number of friends you have.

Also, avoid focusing on the accomplishments of old rivals. Finally, remember the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the screen.

Davilla added that sometimes it’s good to step away and get some perspective.

Even if people aren’t always thrilled with them, these sites continue to grow. There are now about 800 million users of Facebook and Myspace worldwide.

More from Paula Ebben
  • Cynic

    To not believe what you see online is not a “Defense” it is REALITY.Being a Real person with a real life that accepts the real world as it really is I don’t see the point of even having facebook. While we are on the subject why does WBZ keep putting up that box pushing people to join Facebook?Do the own stock in the Company?

  • Not A Cynic

    As an avid Facebook user, I was surprised by my reaction to this story, which was, “What is the matter with everybody?” Maybe I’m in the minority here: I have a decent family and personal life, am able to get things I need and do things I want, and so choosing to be barraged daily with the exploits of people going to Hawaii and Europe or having big parties or what-not doesn’t fill me with self-pity. Those people who DO feel sorrow need to take a harder look at how they have organized their own lives. If they have organized their lives around Facebook, then they’re going about it in the wrong direction. But that doesn’t make Facebook the culprit.

    I agree with Ostroy’s comment that if you have a thousand friends on Facebook, you don’t really have a thousand friends. I have over 350 myself, but I always refer to them as Facebook friends, not friends. (Some ARE friends, of course.) The term “Facebook friend” has entered the modern vocabulary and people would do well to know the difference between them.

    Facebook is not a replacement for real social interaction, but it is a remarkably effective facilitator. I have always enjoyed using Facebook to regain touch with people I haven’t seen in years (32 years in one case) but I also seek out opportunities to meet some of these long-lost friends face-to-face. I occasionally send messages to people saying, “Hey, I’m gonna be in the area, can I drop by to say ‘hi’?” Some are receptive, some aren’t. Last year, I contacted one person I hadn’t seen in over 25 years to tell him I was driving from Florida back to Massachusetts and would be passing through his town. We ended up watching Game 7 of the 2010 Celtics-Lakers Finals in a really nice bar. That wouldn’t have ever happened without Facebook.

    To the poster who questions WBZ’s pushing of Facebook: This is no different than the advent of the Internet, or television, or radio, or print advertising. Whether you like it or not, it is a medium that touches a wide audience, more instantaneously than any of the previous communication innovations, so those that are in the business of reaching people can’t ignore it. The mass market is telling the mass media where it can be reached, which is how it should be.

  • Cynic

    350? Spend 10 minutes with each….58 1/3 hours…Is that a week? A month?When do you sleep?

  • Not A Cynic

    You admitted to not understanding the point of Facebook, yet you have this narrow idea that Facebook users must spend a fixed amount of time with each of their friends. Why? Do you do that with your friends? Of course not. So why do you think social networkers do? On one day, I might drop a comment on 10 of my friends, another day, maybe 5, on another maybe 25. Some days, none. In its own way, Facebook is a pretty accurate microcosm of real-world social interactions. There are people you talk to frequently, people you talk to rarely, people with opinions you agree with, and people you don’t agree with. There are even people who can irritate the heck out of you, but you learn to let ‘em live. I have other friends who happen not to be on Facebook, and the same assortment of relationships abounds with them: good friends, acquaintances, people around whom you have to watch your step. And every user uses it a little differently. To address once and for all your stated misunderstanding, the “point” of Facebook is whatever you decide the point of it is.

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  • Tom


    Here are the facts, Carey and Miller were given the opportunity to change the direction of MySpace last year with a proposal that would increase net profits of MySpace to 1.5 billion dollars by the third year.

    Based on our experence with News Corp, Carey, and Miller no one should trust any of them.

    They wanted us to disclose the plan to them without any written agreement in place. When that was refused, there were no further discussions.

    I would venture to guess anyone they claim to be offering more than 10 million dollars for MySpace would be another one of their lies.

    It is believed that the damage that Carey and Miller have done to MySpace has brought the value of MySpace down to nothing.

    Anyone willing to pay the 50 to 200 million dollars MySpace alleges would mean one of two things. EITHER THEY LIED TO MYSPACE ABOUT WHAT THEY WERE WILLING TO PAY,,,,



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