January 23, 2016
A friend recently changed her picture on Facebook and got close to 80 likes. It was a nice picture, but not significantly nicer than the previous one — at least not that I noticed. Still, it was worthy of approval from dozens of what I assume to be real-life friends, relatives and co-workers.
She’s living a Facebook Life that most of us can only dream of.
I have another friend who regularly posts about his happy life, his wonderful family and his great job. At least half a dozen people chime in with support every time.
He’s another one living the Facebook Life.
I’m tempted to reply with something sarcastic, but I know it will just make me look bad and I would have to admit to having Facebook Envy. Yes, that’s also a thing, according to Urban Dictionary.
But a new study shows I may be right to be skeptical. A professor at Oxford University found that the dozens of friends on Facebook are nothing like real friends. At most, you could count on a few of them.
The average person said that only about 27 per cent of their Facebook friends were genuine.
Those numbers are mostly similar to how friendships work in real life, the research said. But the huge number of supposed friends on a friend list means that people can be tricked into thinking that they might have more close friends.
Urban Dictionary goes further with what is known as the Facebook Paradox — the suggestion that people who spend a lot of time on Facebook don’t have time for real friends. Their Facebook Life is the opposite of their real life.
In one extreme case, a 19-year-old woman studying at the University of Pennsylvania appeared to have the perfect life — if you went by her Facebook posts. Then one day she took her life by jumping off the ninth storey of a parking garage.
A research scientist at the University of Montreal looking at the case says people tend to want to show their best selves on Facebook. And those rare times when they do talk about their problems, friends are not sure how to react.
Networks like Twitter … like Facebook, they have a public appearance. To express that one is going through difficult times in their lives is still restrained by the issues of stigma.
Perhaps Facebook can best be compared with socializing at a party. When people ask how you’re doing, they really don’t want you to pour your heart out. And even if you do talk about your problems, you’re expected to put a positive spin on them.
So there is no need for Facebook Envy. People living Facebook Lives are just acting like they would in any social situation. It is social media, after all.