Is The “Self-Promotion-And-Envy Spiral” Taking Down Facebook?

testosteronepit's picture

Wolf Richter   www.testosteronepit.com   www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter

Facebook isn’t over the hill, exactly. Last October, it announced that 1 billion people used it every month, in a world of 7 billion people. Leaping from one milestone to the next. But in its key markets, such as the US, where it derives most of its revenues, user rates have been plateauing, and a shudder-inducing D-word has snuck into polite conversation: declining.

Last month, according to social-media monitoring startup Socialbakers, there were 167.4 million active users in the US, down 2.4 million from prior month, and down 123,000 from three months earlier. Over the last six months, growth was a hefty 11.9 million. Other major markets saw similar scenarios, such as Indonesia, the UK, Canada, France, and Germany.

Maybe a seasonal dip. Or an indication that FB users in certain markets are backing off. All sorts of reasons have been bandied about: FB fatigue; too busy for a time suck; leeriness of FB’s no-privacy policy; fear of the treacherous reefs of FB-induced jealousy.... Now we were handed another one. Envy.

More precisely, “Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?“ The study by two German universities is based on responses from about 600 FB users, mostly German students, who were contacted via university email lists and bribed into participating with a raffle of Amazon.de gift cards.

The study cites research that acknowledges that “passive following”—keeping up with the minutiae of other people’s lives—allowed users to experience positive emotions and “positive cognitive effects” as it reduced uncertainty, “thereby providing a basis for social trust, civic engagement and political participation.” And so “users broaden their horizons and build a sense of connectedness.”

Alas, “a growing body of research warns against this one-sided positive view,” the study exhorts us and adds a laundry list of research on the many drawbacks. But the study focused on envy—”an unalienable part of social interaction” at work or wherever “inter-personal interactions take place.” Envy can lead to positive outcomes, such as “learning, motivation, better performance, and achievement,” but on the other end of the spectrum, it “breeds hostility.” Over the longer term, it can “damage one’s sense of self-worth, result in group dissatisfaction and withdrawal, lead to depressive tendencies, reduce perceptions of well-being, and poor mental health.” In short, envy is not good. Turns out, FB triggers it massively.

Survey respondents blamed 21.3% of all their recent envy feelings on FB. An outsized ratio, given how little time they spent on FB (half of them, 5-30 minutes daily). A mere 7.2% experienced envy elsewhere online. And 71.5% experienced it offline, proof that people still have a life.

In broader terms, 43.8% of the respondents reported at least one positive emotion after the last time they used FB, while 36.9% reported at least one negative emotion. When asked about FB-triggered frustrations, 29.6% of the respondents cited envy, followed distantly by “lack of comments, likes, feedback” (19.5%), “time loss” (13.7%), “social isolation” (10.4%), and “having missed something/not being invited” (5.5%). “Jealousy of one’s (ex-) partner, friend” was, despite overwhelming anecdotal evidence and countless urban legends to the contrary, at the bottom with 2%.

The triggers for envy on FB? “Travel and leisure!” Yes, 56.3% griped about those aggravating pics of Maya ruins in the lush jungle of Guatemala, or similar. In second place, but far behind on the envy-trigger list, was “social interaction” (14.1%), “appearance” (7.1%), etc. Fading out at the bottom were, for example, “success in general” (5.6%), “success in job” (2.8%), and “money” (1.4%).

The researchers determined that the “intensity of passive following,” because it triggers envy, “is likely to reduce users’ life satisfaction in the long-run.” Hence, people try to minimize or avoid envy by using a variety of strategies. None of them good for FB’s top or bottom line.

- Avoid friending, or even unfriend, people one is envious about. But it’s unpopular because it would “contradict social norms” and might lead to tensions.

- Hide content from people one is envious about.

- Engage in “even greater self-promotion and impression management”—exaggeration of accomplishments being a common reaction to envy. But it can trigger a “self-promotion-and-envy spiral,” where users combat the self-promotional content of others with ever more self-promotion of their own. A vicious cycle that would lead the “envy-ridden character” of FB deeper into the thicket.

- Reduce, or refrain from, passive following. Users would miss out on information or events and thus see less value in FB. And FB would see less participation in an essential user activity. 

A heads-up for FB. “Our findings signal that users frequently perceive Facebook as a stressful environment, which may, in the long-run, endanger platform sustainability,” the researchers concluded. And they warned that “addressing this threat should be seen as priority.”

While welfare programs were playing a prominent role in our boisterous Fiscal Cliff theatrics, Congress quietly and behind the scenes enriched corporate welfare programs—in this case, Medicare. Bitter irony: it happened as Congress was considering tightening the belts of people who’d paid into the system throughout their working years. Prime beneficiary: Big Pharma. One company, actually. Read.... Exhibit A: Enriching the Corporate Welfare Program

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
TahoeBilly2012's picture

I am developing a new concept social/biz network. Funny, even though I believe in the potential for my concept I have actually ditched Facebook for now, much for the reasons Wolf notes here. Both LinkenIn and FB are just so wide open and commercial, they dont really have a point, just anarchy.

I hope my network provides a very clear point for existence. Let's see.

shovelhead's picture

I don't get FB. Never have.

So, if I understand this correctly, this 'study' is telling me that people get envious when someone describes their daily bowel movements or a social equivalent and this make them unhappy?

Too weird for me.

Back to ignoring the inconsequential...

 

etresoi's picture

Perhaps people are getting wise to the basic economic concept of the marginal utilitly of social media.

The marginal value of each additional contact and interaction falls over time. After the 1,000th status update or comment or interruption, the value becomes zero or negative. To be sucked into the social-media vortex could ruin your ability to be productive in other ways.

southerncomfort's picture

from yahoo:  "As of February 2, 2012, it had 845 million monthly users and 443 million daily users."  notice how they dilineate "daily v. monthly" users - as if that adds a few million.  

decelerating user base.  not in china.  google+ chomping at the game.  enjoy watching the magical levitation of FB pps.  what a show!

looked at a few of those MTV Catfish recaps on youtube.  funny stuff.  surreal how some fat chick will be posing as some pretty boy yakking w/ some nurse student in alabama who's thinking she's gonna marry that dude.  lol...okay i cut cable a few years ago so it only takes a little to get me laughing!  

jonan's picture

WTF, did he paste the last paragraph into the wrong article? lol...

edifice's picture

1st World problems... (see Louis CK "Hilarious" skit) When tanks are rolling down Main St. and the typical FB user is wondering whether they will eat that day, those with food will be from where said individual's "envy" stems.

NSAbook will be a thing of the past. It won't be pretty.

IamtheREALmario's picture

Pride is not a virtue.

I wonder if Facebook pages would be considered modern day "graven idols". Read something about those once. Many things, such as statues in the town square could be perceived that way by a vengeful god.

There is always a crowd that wants to be perceived as "important" and when they get together in clubs, they give each other all sorts of awards and titles and such. Often empty, hollow, forgotten after the first ego blast fades ... we are such weak and frail beings. Others expect to receive reverence because they are the largest mass murderers of the time ... or the most successful thief.

Think I will go downstairs to get more coffee.

AynRandFan's picture

I thought it was a great idea until I found out most of my old friends were still jerks.  Self promotion being the most common sin.  If someone isn't bragging, they are trying to sell you something or their politics.  The problem with Facebook is that people are bozos, by and large.

Shizzmoney's picture

Totally agree.

I love how my friends on FB would pronounce their political leaning in ramblings that would make even the most simple of primates fling shit.

The only good Facebook provides is that the human experiment of intelligent life has, by in large, failed.  Magnificently.

3FrenchHens's picture

@AynRandFan. Agree.   Mainly use FB to message friends in Europe to set up Skype time... the "under 30 crowd" doesn't check email... So it does have some value to me.  Love it when I log on & see former classmate strutting her bikini, looking... ok, and I smugly sit there 2 sizes smaller & fairly well preserved, I might add... and do not upload my Carribean vacation photos.  Makes my day.

ebworthen's picture

This cow has been milked.

Send it off to the glue factory.

MySpace, AOL.com, Netscape, Compaq, Cabbage Patch Dolls, etc.

IamtheREALmario's picture

Where DID I put my pet rock? Probably under the pile of beanie babies.

Budd aka Sidewinder's picture

There's this one girl from high school that I like to beat off to so I check on FB every couple of days to see if she has posted any pictures of herself

Dangertime's picture

Over the course of the next ten years you can watch her go from hottie to fatty in a slow decline, finally hitting the wall at about the 30-35 age range.  Just in time for her to marry a guy who doesn't see it coming.

Coldfire's picture

The Farcebook fad reminds me of the CB radio craze in the '70's. The bell ringing at the top will be a massive musical hit. 10-4, good buddy. Yecch.

TrumpXVI's picture

I finally signed on to the stupid thing.  The reason being that I wanted to try to find a couple of old friends from high school (I'm now 61 y.o.).  I figured with nearly a billion users, that prolly included almost everybody in the developed world and my chances of finding almost any literate adult should be better than 50/50.............but, not.

To my surprise, a LOT of people are not in there (at least not under their real names); especially in my age group.  In theory, facebook should be a very useful resource, but I've found that it just isn't.  And the "stream of conscienciousness" style of communication is low value in terms of content value as well.

MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

Sounds like you're wide awake and paying attention...But you'll never get swept up in the tide of hype if you keep thinking that way!

Downtoolong's picture

Suddenly, 1/7th of the world population realized that living in a virtual world isn't all Mark Zuckerberg promised, and that unlike them, he lives in a real $7 million dollar home.

Bob's picture

My interest in things FB is slight, but your article linked at the end is quite interesting, I think:

Exhibit A: Enriching the Corporate Welfare Program

WTF.

chogopogo's picture

Impression management! It could be an interesting job. What are you going to be when you raise up kid? Astronaut? Doctor? Engineer? No, I am going to be Impression manager! :))))))

chogopogo's picture

Like, friend, passive following, impression managementThe study cites research that acknowledges that “passive following”—keeping up with the minutiae of other people’s lives—allowed users to experience positive emotions and “positive cognitive effects” as it reduced uncertainty, “thereby providing a basis for social trust, civic engagement and political participation.” And so “users broaden their horizons and build a sense of connectedness.” - oh, that's a good one! :))))))))). Buuuuullshit! 

hallywood's picture

Farcebook claiming to have 1/7th of the worlds population as users is a farce. Oh and it is illegal in China, Russia and a rounding error in Brasil. The searchable social graph provides no measurable utility to users other than the 3 letter agencies who are the greatest benfactors. A self published database of members social relationships, travel, movement/activities, photo verifications and buying patterns is an NSA wet dream. The Farcebook also allows them to listen in and watch whenever they like. The dumbing down of America has been an efficient process with a sweaty, hooded social misfit, virtual farm animals and twits who think anybody really gives a shit about what Aston Kucher or Kim Kardashian are doing at any given time as tangible evidence. Caveat Emptor.

southerncomfort's picture

the DST Global I and II LP who hold tons of FB shares is Russian oligarchy.  Sure it's illegal in Russia?  not that we'd want these folks knowing the intimate details of our 1-ply or 2-ply lives or anything... which is why I kind of dig the Catfish people doing what they do...lol...

 

ThankYouSirMayIHaveAnother's picture

And so why does facebook need the permissions to turn on your camera or voice recording without your permission/knowledge?

MurderNeverWasLove's picture

I just like to post WB7 and ZH stuff sometimes.  Feeding the static back into the system.  500 "friends" almost completely ignore. Some have told me in person that they read and appreciate my posts and commentary, but they are total pussies about what other people might think if they started "Liking" and "Sharing" and shit.  I guess that's something, because I actually care about those folks on my friend list.

Today I wrote a comment on a FB "friend's" post about public funding for the arts and got "unfriended."  I was suddenly quite in love with FB.  I'm going to suggest to everyone who doesn't want to suffer the stuff I post just as well forget about being FB friends, no worries and won't take it personally.  500 and I bet not even 50 see what I post, and maybe a dozen who could give a flying fuck, and maybe five who comment from time to time.

After blogger got big, trashed their cool old-school API and was taken over by the borg, I switched to posting links on facebook.  It was only ever really a deluxe bookmarks thing for me, anyway.

I only use m.facebook.com, all apps and other "interactions" with third-party anything totally disabled.  It's a freaking full-time job to keep track of all the privacy/security shit, because FB changes that shit all the time, and it becomes more of a surgical procedure all the time.

Any one of a dozen sites, ZH probably topping the list, consume multiples my FB time.

But man has the FB demi-urge subsided from its heyday, whenever that was.

The researchers determined that the “intensity of passive following,” because it triggers envy, “is likely to reduce users’ life satisfaction in the long-run.” Hence, people try to minimize or avoid envy by using a variety of strategies. None of them good for FB’s top or bottom line.

- Avoid friending, or even unfriend, people one is envious about. But it’s unpopular because it would “contradict social norms” and might lead to tensions.

- Hide content from people one is envious about.

- Engage in “even greater self-promotion and impression management”—exaggeration of accomplishments being a common reaction to envy. But it can trigger a “self-promotion-and-envy spiral,” where users combat the self-promotional content of others with ever more self-promotion of their own. A vicious cycle that would lead the “envy-ridden character” of FB deeper into the thicket.

- Reduce, or refrain from, passive following. Users would miss out on information or events and thus see less value in FB. And FB would see less participation in an essential user activity.

A heads-up for FB. “Our findings signal that users frequently perceive Facebook as a stressful environment, which may, in the long-run, endanger platform sustainability,” the researchers concluded. And they warned that “addressing this threat should be seen as priority.”

That stuff gets me.  Got Envy?  Avoid, Hide, Exaggerate, Reduce, Refrain.

I'm thinking envy is a personal issue, and none of those suggestions gonna fix that.  People are so pussified.

And I don't tend to bring comfort and joy, so I guess that makes me FB's worst nightmare, and I am "endangering platform sustainability."

Sweet.

couple thousand well-placed ZH Zombie FB accounts . . .

Manipuflation's picture

Sorry, I was interrupted for most of the day but I still think I like what are doing with FB.  Using FB to promote the truth is an interesting concept and I have only ever met one other ZH'er on FB.  Eric De Groot has a financial board that is not a secret board as he is selling something.  I like post charts.  You can find me there occasionally and I'm not selling you anything. 

Manipuflation's picture

Funny you should say.  I use FB the same way you do.  It's not uncommon for WB7 or Tyler's material to get posted on FB by me.  I too am constantly messing with the security settings.  If you ever get bored see if you can find me.  Search for Mises Board and see what you find.  But alas there seem to be precious few ZHer's on FB and that in itself makes FB boring and droll.  Peace.

Zero-risk bias's picture

Isn't it just the same as Apple recently losing ground and mojo to its' competitors?

If Farmville gave you real land, and you could grow real carrots, there might be some real value of playing.

Hobie's picture

Twelve Steps to kicking the Facebook addiction:

1. We admitted we were powerless over Facebook - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to understand that a Power greater than ourselves (a.k.a. Zero Hedge) could restore us to sanity. 

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of Gold & Silver as we understood how shit fiat currency was.

4. Made a searching and fearless inventory of gold & silver & bullets & food...

5. Admitted to Gold & Silver, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have Gold & Silver remove all these defects of character. And some bullets to remove the defects of Wall Street and Washington.

7. Humbly asked that physical Gold & Silver remove those banks shorting our precious.

8. Made a list of all persons who had been disarmed, and became willing to arm them all (with knowledge).

9. Made direct amendments to executive orders and unconstitutional decrees.

10. Continued to take personal inventory of Gold & Silver, and whenever possible kept stacking.

11. Sought through meditation to improve our conscious (physical) contact with Gold & Silver, praying for the enevitable bond/equity crash.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to Facebookaholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

 

Time for a Belgian beer or three...

chrispycrunch's picture

Curing your facebook addiction is quite easy. Remove your birthday, do not participate in the meaningless action of wishing others a happy birthday on facebook.

 

You will then realize Facebook has no value at all, and is actually just a glorified birthday reminder app.

buckethead's picture

Clever, but creepy.

Bill W seems to be a ZH commenter.

Hobbleknee's picture

lol "seasonal dip"

cbxer55's picture

Facebook? 

What's that? Never been there, never will.

Fuck Farcebook.

Kickaha's picture

Its a website where friends and family used to post about what was goint on in their lives so that they could maintain friendship and family bonds.

Now the percentage of such posts is continuously shrinking day by day as more and more commericial interests post promotional or informational material, thereby rendering useless the main reason people go there.

It is hard to find any commercial value in such a business model.  At some point, people will just stop bothering to read anything on Facebook, just as they would stop watching TV if a one hour program was interrupted with 55 minutes of commercials.

Big companies with large market cap used to make stuff people needed.  Now they all seem to either: (1) promote a new type of advertising; or (2) promote targeted marketing of consumers.  WTF?

Spastica Rex's picture

"Need" and "want" are two very different things. Want based services and products have been the norm for nearly three quarters of a century.

It's hard to manipulate what people need.

billsykes's picture

POLL:

Facebook vote

up if you don't like it 

down if you like it.

 

 

SubjectivObject's picture

Now THAT's an assured 50/50 distribution for I Don't Know.

q99x2's picture

Facebook may benefit from people getting rid of their cable because of the cost and only use the less expensive internet instead.

Personally I do not know why everyone hasn't already done so.

DaveA's picture

In the old days, every family sent out an annual Christmas letter updating friends and relatives on the year's events. These letters covered exactly three topics: expensive vacations in exotic locales, the children's brilliant achievements, and health problems.

Facebook is like getting a Christmas letter every day.

jballz's picture

Experiencing the total hilarity of comment board lamenting of the lifeless fucks on Facebook.

Hey kettle, this is pot laughing his fucking ass off.

Shizzmoney's picture

All social media networks are basically just cooler versions of internet forums.

The God of Irony called, BTW.  He wants his Schadenfreude back.

 

Zero-risk bias's picture

There's the internet where eveyone makes there mind up where to go, and there's a few websites like these aimed at hive minded insectual types. One may guess, eventually they'll get tired of transmiting facsimiles of feelings on a screen, and their private data.

Ocean22's picture

What the last paragraph mean??

Citxmech's picture

It was a test to see if you were reading the whole article.

Vlad Tepid's picture

Richter has a real problem with segues...as proof see this book which started with a Japanese girl in France and got zanier from there.  Someone on Amazon said it was a rip-roarin', rootin'-tootin' read!

Ocean22's picture

These reasons are EXACTLY why I stopped FBing. It worked. I feel great again. Down with FB!!

putaipan's picture

i reeeeaaally need a vacation! please pay-pal it foreward- to  antonyjames_331@hotmail.com

(even 20$ a pop might be better spent than a half ounce of siver keisers' could ever do, please...some of you are rich muthrf*cking facebookers!)