Here is Why Social Media Makes You Feel Envy

In high school, one day the boy who used to sit next to me got a new bicycle; it was his birthday present from his uncle living abroad. That day I felt very bad. That whole day I was upset for no reason. I was in XII standard, on 1st January, my friend received a New Year greetings card from the popular girl of our tuition classes, I felt bad again that day. 
It was my sophomore year in IIT, one of my batchmate had an internship offer from top foreign university and I felt bad again that day. There were many more days when I had those bad feelings.

We all feel bad for different reasons, when we had any physical injuries, when we loss someone, when we face rejection, when we are insulted, when we fail. Those are the situations where we have the perception of loss; it may be physical (people, material, health) or psychological loss (dignity, respect, opportunity etc.). However, in my case there was no loss rather the gain of someone else made me feel bad. This kind of pain is different from rest of the pain, where there is no loss to you, your state of life is as same as before but when others gain something, it generates one kind of bad feelings in you. We name it ENVY feeling.
You might have felt envy in many situations like me. Those were days when we felt envy sometimes but not daily. The day you visit your friend’s house and realize that, he has a beautiful house, that day you might envy his house. When you hear about your friend getting best job offer, that day you might envy him. However, with the increasing use of social media, envy feeling is becoming an everyday phenomenon.
What is envy feeling?
When you want something that another has, you experience feelings of envy. Envy is unpleasant emotion that generates from the desire of having another person's possession. In my case, I experienced envy feelings when I saw others having new bicycle or greetings card from a beautiful girl or foreign internship offer which I did not have that time.
We human beings always like to compare ourselves with others to know where we stand in life. The habit of comparing ourselves has become automatic. The moment we meet someone, we subconsciously start evaluating the person based on the information we have that moment and then compare it with ourselves to confirm where we stand.
Envy is different from jealously. Jealousy is often related to romantic relationships. We feel jealously when we have the fear of losing someone's affection, love, attention or time. Say, you saw your girl is talking with a person who is more successful than you are, and then you might feel jealously of losing your girl. Jealously is more specific but envy is more common. Envy has touched every spectrum of our life. In this article we will only talk about envy.
Social Media is the platform of comparison
Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) is a platform where we share information with people, where we connect with friends but along with that social media is becoming a platform for generating envy feelings. In Facebook, apart from sharing photos, writing status messages, liking, commenting we do another major passive activity, which is “scrolling your news-feed”. When you scroll your news-feed, you consume lots of information about others, what your friends are eating, exotic vacation photos of your friends, their new job, new houses, new cars, your friend’s achievements, who are getting married, who are enjoying relationships, which are having perfect looks, figures, who are having happy lives and lots more. With that information you simply don't stop there rather you unconsciously starts comparing your life with others and as soon as you start comparing, you experience an unpleasant and painful feelings caused by the desire to have what others have which you perceive you don't have.
Now this is self-sustaining cycle, no matter how much you do possess but you will still find some area of your life where you lack but others have it. If you are successful, healthy, rich then you might envy others physical look. On the other hand, you might have physical beauty, success, career but you might envy others happy relationships. In other words, you have entered in river of envy feelings; no matter what you do, you cannot escape it.
In order to end your envy feelings, you might become motivated to have what others have (this is positive envy or benign envy) or you might harm the envied person and start self-promoting (negative envy or malicious envy). Malicious envy leads to self-promoting, bragging, and desire to harm others. In addition, you are self-promoting and bragging make others envy you and this vicious cycle continues forever.
Instagram is best platform for generating malicious envy, where people filter their photos and try to portray the best of them.
Problem is not Facebook. Social media per se is not the reason for envy feelings-rather, how you use social media. Studies have shown that when you use Facebook actively- exchanging messages, sharing creative stuffs-it raises your self-esteem, increases your bonding with others. But when you use Facebook just for passive following- looking at others vacation photos, selfies, checking out others profiles, self-promoting, consuming others information, it makes you feel envious and it lowers your self-esteem. In the end, it makes you feel lonely, depressed and damages your self-worth.
But there is a solution
Withdrawal from social media is not the solution. Solution lies in resisting yourself from consuming unnecessary social information and not comparing oneself in biased way. Below I have highlighted a few important steps, which can be helpful in preventing envy feelings.
1. Stop consuming unnecessary information about others
We are addicted to knowing what other people are doing in their life. Is my friend's job better than me? Is the guy from my office happily married? Where my best friend went for vacation? Is my ex having a nice time? Stop digging others life. You do not need to constantly check people's honeymoon photos and saying to yourself “Wow, what a life they have”.
Use social media actively messaging, sharing nice contents, finding new career opportunities, talking to old friends. I use Facebook, twitter for sharing my creative works (articles, philanthropic works, audio, videos) and connecting with my lost friends.
Another important thing, stop taking lots of selfies and stop checking out other's selfies. There has been an increasing amount of craze for selfies. Research has confirmed that capturing selfies is a disease. People take selfies just to raise their lower self-esteem and not to feel lonely. Selfies or social media cannot raise your self-esteem nor it can make feel loved. Get into the real world and do things, which actually can raise your self-esteem (like learning new skills, getting a new job, making your relationship stronger etc.).
2. Either way, you are lost

Whenever you compare yourself with others, you will always find yourself inferior to that person. Remember that we compare ourselves with others only when we think that we lack something. In addition, when you perceive you lack something, no matter how you compare you will always find yourself in lower position. Therefore, stop comparing yourself with others.
Another important thing, you are comparing in wrong way. You compare your whole life with others any specific event. Say people's selfies or their vacation photos or their any single achievements. This is not a fair comparison.
3. Identify the filter
Whenever people share something about them on Facebook, they are only sharing the beautiful things in their life and that too in exaggerated way. No one likes to share the bad things of their life. I may post on Facebook “Feeling proud, I have been promoted” and on looking that some people might envy my promotion but things which I am not sharing are “She dumped me, I feel miserable”, “I have been insulted, I feel terrible for that”, “I cheated on someone and I am ashamed of me”. Therefore, there is a filter, which everyone uses before sharing anything on social media. Even people use many photo-editing filters before sharing their photos. That filter only shows the beautiful things of our life and all the bad things are filtered out.
4. Use social media only for social purpose
If you ask me one take away from this article, then it is “use social media only for social purposes”. Never expect social media will be fulfilling emptiness in your life created by lack of intimate people- Emptiness can be fulfilled only in real world with real people.
Social media is also not for boosting your confidence; confidence can only be built when you make progress in the areas where you lack confidence. Say, if you are shy and lack confidence in talking to strangers, then get out of your room and talk to new people. On the other hand, say you think you feel bored, and then find a passion in your life. If there is any problem in your personal life like feeling lonely, low self-esteem, shyness, depression, lack of motivation etc. then don't expect social media will solve your life problems rather it will enhance your problems more.
Finally, treat social media for connecting with friends that too in limited way because real connections happen in real world not on computer. Use social media to find great contents shared by creative people, new ideas (I follow people who share their articles, music, videos etc.) or finding new career opportunities.
This article is inspired by the research “Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?” done by Darmstadt University (Germany) and Humboldt University (Germany).
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