Facebook envy: are our ‘friends’ making us depressed?

Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is facebooking depressing? By Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Patrick Ferrucci & Margaret Duffy

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With 1.393 billion monthly active users (Smith 2015), and an aim to “…give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” (Facebook, 2015), it would seem ridiculous for people to log on to a website that actually invoked feelings of depression. However, since significant academic discussion exists regarding the negative emotional impact of Facebook, it is interesting to consider the question, ‘does Facebook make people depressed?’ This idea has been explored in the research conducted by Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Patrick Ferrucci & Margaret Duffy in their 2015 research report, ‘Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is facebooking depressing?’ Tandoc is an Assistant Professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Ferrucci is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Bradley University and Duffy teaches courses in strategic communication, research methods and media management at the Missouri School of Journalism. All three authors are clearly highly qualified to write about this topic and each author has released other studies regarding similar topics.

The text attempts to find a link between Facebook use and depression among college students. It ‘uses the framework of social rank theory of depression and conceptualizes Facebook envy as a possible link between Facebook surveillance use and depression’ (Tandoc et al., 2015, p. 139). The authors undertook a survey of 736 college students and found that Facebook can trigger feelings of envy, which, in turn, may lead to feelings of depression. They found that college students who use Facebook heavily have higher levels of envy because they are exposed to a lot of personal information from their Facebook friends – friends who strive for a positive self-presentation by posting ‘successes, material goods, positive relationships, and other information that other users share on Facebook’ (Tandoc et al., 2015, p. 149). ‘Exposure to these pieces of positive information about others can lead to feelings of envy, as information consumers can feel subordinated to others who seem to publish positive experiences all the time. The irony, of course, is that users rarely post negative experiences, which might contradict the aim of positive self-presentation. Thus, when users feel envious constantly, they might develop depression symptoms over time.’ The authors’ findings were objectively backed up with reference to several other reports whilst also including references that opposed the authors’ hypothesis to provide a well-rounded, well-informed report.

Tandoc et al. carried out an online survey that collected information by asking people a number of questions and coding their responses in numerical form suitable for statistical analysis. Within their survey they controlled a number of variables such as Facebook use, envy and depression by defining and specifying the terms. To survey feelings of depression, the authors used the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, one of the most commonly used measures of depression. The scale consists of 20 items asking questions about symptoms associated with depression. The report is well set out with headings and subheadings so the chronological experimental procedure can be easily seen and understood, from hypothesis and method to results and conclusion.

Since Facebook is such a huge worldwide website, Tandoc et al.’s research into the possible negative mental impacts of Facebook use are of great significance to audiences globally – audiences such as academics and students undertaking study in the fields of psychology, behavioural sciences and media and communications, as well as users of Facebook and social media in general. As part of the intended audience, it is interesting to consciously consider whether something that I use every day is actually having a negative impact on my emotions. Additionally, Tandoc et al. suggest that the link between Facebook use and depression is only just starting to attract scholarly attention, but scholars still disagree on the nature of the relationship and so their research is important as it contributes to this growing area which could improve the lives of many people if there is, in fact, a link between Facebook and depression (p. 139).



Facebook 2015, Facebook company mission, Facebook, United States, viewed 19 March 2015, <https://www.facebook.com/FacebookAU/info?tab=page_info&gt>.

Smith, C 2015, How Many People Use 800+ of the Top Social Networks, Apps and Digital Services?, DMR Digital Marketing Ramblings, viewed 20 March 2015, <http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/resource-how-many-people-use-the-top-social-media/6/>.

Tandoc, EC, Ferruci, P & Duffy, M 2015, ‘Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is facebooking depressing?’, Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 43, pp. 139-146.


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