Envious Facebook users may experience depression, MU Study says

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COLUMBIA - A daily habit for hundreds of millions of people could be dangerous to their health.

A new study from the University of Missouri found Facebook use can lead to symptoms of depression if the site causes feelings of envy in users.

"If you use Facebook mainly to observe, or we use the term surveillance, other people rather than to interact or enjoy, users will often have feelings of envy, and those feelings of envy can then lead to depression," Strategic Communications chair and MU School of Journalism Margaret Duffy said.

The envious feelings can result from seeing peers getting new jobs, having children, getting engaged or married, or even taking a vacation.

Duffy said college students were the main target for the study because of the emotional changes students go through during their first years away from home.

"We specifically focused on this age range because it is such a transitional period," Duffy said.

While research focused on college-aged students, Duffy said she believes the research could also apply to all ages of Facebook users. 

As social media has continued to grow, researchers say more and more users began to use the social media tool for the wrong reason.

"Based on our study, as well as what others have previously found, using Facebook can exert positive effects on well-being. But when it triggers envy among users, that's a different story," researcher Edson Tandoc stated in a news release.

While this study has concluded, Duffy said she is interested in considering other factors for another study of similar nature.

"We would be very interested to look at generational differences and cross-cultural differences. Is this the same in Europe as it is in the United States, or in China?" Duffy said.

Duffy said the best way to combat the issue is to speak out.

"The best use of a social network is to be social and interact, so if we see ourselves doing it or our friend doing it, I think maybe it's time for a friendly word or thought to do something differently," Duffy.

KOMU 8 asked Facebook users to share their opinions on this study on our page.

"Those folks who have to compare themselves to their friends, trying to keep score, do not just do it on social media but everywhere else they go. They just happen to (mis)use the venue," Facebook user Sharon Preston said.

Other users said this is not an issue in their personal lives, and they enjoy using the network to connect with people from their past. 

"It never bothers me. I'm happy for any accomplishments for my friends and family," Facebook followers Larry and Vinnie Evans said.