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Jealousy, competition and social media

A lot is written about the amazing benefits of social media; connectivity will make us smarter, more collaborative and help us form relationships like never before. I don’t doubt that much of this is true, but recently I’ve been thinking about the other more negative feelings that it can provoke, most specifically jealousy and competition.

I cannot think of any platform that doesn’t involve some kind of liking, following or commenting, and as an individual within a network I find it impossible to avoid twinges of envy when person A likes something of person B’s rather than mine. Or when person A and person B connect with person C and not me. Social media thrives on human connections and transparency, and combined these two things can be bruising when taken in the wrong way.

Before writing this I worried I was just being overly emotional and insecure, but I don’t think enough is said about the darker side of social. While the Daily Mail would have us believe Facebook will lead to our souls being vacuumed through our screens, it’s the slower, subtle effect of social that concerns me. Take this study for example:

According to a study conducted by a Western University student completing her Masters’ thesis, approximately 88 percent of Facebook users that went through a relationship breakup in the last twelve months use the social network to keep an eye on their ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.

These platforms didn’t exist ten years ago. Keeping tabs on a ex would have involved actual stalking, but now we use that term as an everyday joke. And even when the stalking doesn’t involve an ex, ask yourself how many times you’ve gone down a wormhole on Facebook or Instagram when you’ve discovered an old colleague or school friend, and think about what drives this beyond curiosity?

Then on from jealously comes competition, seeing evidence of what others are doing on social and measuring yourself against this. This is front of mind for me as recently I’ve felt pangs of competition from using our internal social network Chatter. Seeing major and minor successes from colleagues occasionally provokes unproductive feelings in me, and the niggle of feeling unrecognised when others are being publicly praised is a powerful one. 

We’re a small team and so I have no idea how powerful these feelings could be when multiplied a hundred fold within large organisations, but I wonder if HR teams are considering the emotional impact of the internal comms platforms other parts of the business might be implementing.

As I’m no expert on people/emotions (aside from feeling my own) I’ll end this post as a question rather than a conclusion; do you identify with the behaviours above, and what do you think we can do about them?

This post was filed under Social media, Working culture. Join the conversation - leave a comment.

2 Comments

  1. I love this post! (Secretly just relieved that someone else has admitted to these feelings first). I’m surprised so little is written on this – particularly on the jealousy thing rather than the stalking.

    You post something awesome on Facebook and nobody likes it? Gah! They liked X’s post!

    We’re (I’m) so addicted to the endorphin (serotonin? dopamine? neurochemist in the house?) kick that comes with a like or a mention, that not to get them is deflating. Or to see others swimming in them can generate envy.

    Couple of other thoughts – partly, it’s just about keeping up. I know if I spend too long on twitter I just get exhausted by all the amazing things people are working on and the vast amount I feel I should read. And looking at LinkedIn while job hunting can be a little depressing. Until you realise that there’s quite a lot of fronting* going on. (*There’s probably a proper behavioural science term for reporting life as more awesome than it actually is.)

    I suspect that a lot of responses to this would be ‘jeez, just spend less time in front of a screen – do some real work’. And it’s probably true. Real, actual social contact doesn’t elicit the same feelings (for me at least). If you were at a staff meeting at which your colleague was praised, you’d be joining in wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you? :)

    Posted 24th January 2013 at 9:35 pm | Permalink
  2. Ross Breadmore

    Thanks for the comment Joe – particularly love the ‘fronting’ point. I agree – sometimes the reality I know regarding some people doesn’t match up to the social ‘reality’ they portray.

    And your last point about joining in with actual praising of someone else is bang on the money. It’s odd how social can boil interactions down to such a basic level that they illicit a primal, not always good response.

    Posted 28th January 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

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  1. By On personal terms and conditions - NixonMcInnes on 26th February 2013 at 3:01 pm

    [...] that outing our intentions will allow others to interact with us better, and avoid some of the messiness that social media can so easily [...]

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