Social Media Envy - Seven Deadly Sins Week


By Chelsea Pineda

Photo courtesy of Jason Howie.

While envy is considered to be one of the oldest and most deadly sins that everyone experiences, the way humans experience the emotion has transformed through the years as both society and technology evolve.

In today’s world, social media envy surfaces as a curious yet concerning malady that’s been growing alongside the popularity of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Social media users of all ages can easily become envious of others when using these sites and phone apps, as the jealous can range from today’s tech-savvy teenagers to Pinterest-using mothers.

Stefanie Weiss, a New York-based mental health consultant and parenting coach, defines the phenomenon of social media envy as being jealous of the amount of followers, likes, and positive comments that individuals receive on a status or picture posted on social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook. Weiss emphasizes that such envy is often focused on quantity over quality.

“I think the envy is on the comparison or on the quantity, as far as how many followers, how many likes, and how many people are responding to what you’re putting out there,” she tells BTR.

Weiss claims that generally, people who are more secure with themselves aren’t going to care as much about the number of likes or followers they have online. However, she believes that a sense of anxiety can form in even the most secure person from just sharing a photo or a status on social media websites.

“Are you looking for people to comment on it? Are you looking for people to appreciate what you’re putting out there?” Weiss asks, illustrating the mindset where anxious feelings can arise. “If you are not getting that appreciation or not getting enough of it, I think it can cause anxiety or depression. I think it can cause insecurity in anyone, even people who don’t typically suffer from that.”

As reported in The Chicago Tribune, a research study conducted by two German universities found that one in three people felt worse after visiting Facebook and more dissatisfied with their lives.

Weiss said social media envy could evolve into anxiety, insomnia, and even depression, according to Weiss. This is problematic for many who already suffer from anxiety, such as young children and teenagers who constantly check their social media updates to see how many and who are responding to their statuses. Younger generations are becoming more concerned with how to obtain more followers, and what material they can share and how it will affect their following.

But what are people posting online that is causing this envy and creating this obsession with likes, favorites, and follows?

Belmont-based clinical psychologist Craig Malkin told Boston’s WBUR, an NPR affiliate, earlier this year that a major theme that has been emerging in his research on social media usage “…is when people go on to Facebook they’re often crafting a persona – they’re portraying themselves at their happiest. They’re often choosing events that feel best to them and they’re leaving out other things.”

This desired sense of virtual perfection is not only portrayed by young people who use on Facebook these days, as more social media websites are being created that appeal to more specific ages and demographics.

Pinterest, a social media website that lets members post and maintain photo collections according to specific themes, has caused stress and jealousy in its primary demographic: – mothers. In a survey of moms by NBC’s TODAY Show, 42 percent of 7,000 women who had children and regularly used the crafts website admitted to suffering from “Pinterest stress.” Many of these users found platform to be stressful because of the pressure to display their family’s perfection and their own sense of maternal craftiness.

Jenna Andersen, a mother and the creator of the blog Pinterest Fail, called Pinterest “a site of unrealized dreams.” She told TODAY that this particular social media platform makes it “so easy to get depressed. You start to feel like your entire life has to be like a magazine all the time.”

While grown women are concerned with their picture-perfect family portrayals on websites, their teenage sons and daughters are more concerned with the social aspect how online pictures can portray their social lives. “They’re able to see where they’re being left out or they’re able to see pictures of things socially they’re not a part of,” says Weiss.

Weiss also sees social media and the envy it causes as an addiction for teenagers.

“I think kids are viewing their social status based on it,” she continues. “People are weighing their importance and believing that what people think about them as a person is based on if they like their pictures or what they’re saying online.”

As a mother of three children, Weiss offers advice for other parents: the best solution to alleviate social media envy is to moderate social media usage. Parents can also make sure that teens aren’t using their phones or checking their profiles until certain times of the day, especially when they’re already in a negative mood or have other priorities to take care of, such as studying for a test or building relationships with people without using the internet.

While detoxing from social media seems to be the most effective way of lessening the envy, Weiss doesn’t believe that it will hurt social media businesses since it’s unrealistic to completely avoid social media altogether.

“Social media is here to stay but people need to put in perspective that your social media persona is not your personality.”

For those who suffer social media envy after viewing a happy picture that someone posts on Facebook, Weiss argues that the happy picture that someone posts on Facebook isn’t necessarily real.

“What’s real is behind the scenes, which you’re not seeing,” says Weiss. “This is just one aspect of someone’s life and there’s other things in life besides this.”