While social media has the potential to make a big world smaller, to bring people of all kinds together, and to strengthen the bonds of friendship, its downside is bleak. Let’s face it: We don’t always experience joyous excitement when scrolling through photos and posts of our friends doing well, enjoying a vacation, or having fun together. Prosperity, pleasure, or an unexpected bonus in someone else’s life can stab you with pain. It might make you depressed or even ill.
Imagine my therapy client who has fertility issues. What does it feel like to her every time she opens Facebook to find a post from yet another former high school classmate announcing her pregnancy? Consider your neighbor who has been unemployed for a year logging onto Google+ only to discover that his longtime friend was recently promoted—again. Sure, there are plenty of people online congratulating one another, sharing in joy, and finding vicarious happiness in the success of others. But envy can be powerful and decidedly unpleasant.
Social media amplifies unintended slights or emotional injuries. Most of all, it exponentially increases the likelihood of social envy.