Facebook, Social Comparison, and Subjective Well-Being: An Examination of the Interaction Between Active and Passive Facebook Use on Subjective Well-Being

Facebook, Social Comparison, and Subjective Well-Being: An Examination of the Interaction Between Active and Passive Facebook Use on Subjective Well-Being

Jessica J. Joseph (Mount Royal University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9412-3.ch011
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Facebook use has implications for subjective well-being. Previous research has revealed that passive Facebook use is typically related to deficits in subjective well-being, which is thought to be linked through upward social comparison. In contrast, active Facebook use is typically related to enhancements in subjective well-being. The main objective of the present study was to synthesize findings related to Facebook use and subjective well-being and to expand by proposing and testing whether the benefits associated with active Facebook use compensate for the negative effects associated with passive use. The second objective was to discuss policy and research directions. A total of 310 undergraduate students completed an online survey with questions regarding Facebook use, social comparison, and subjective well-being. Bootstrapping analyses revealed that active Facebook use did not buffer the negative effects for subjective well-being that occur during passive Facebook use. Recommendations for future research and education programs are discussed.
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An Overview Of The Current Literature

Social media has become pervasive in society today, with the potential to influence psychosocial functioning. Among the most popular of these sites includes the social networking site, Facebook. While on Facebook, users are able to create online profiles that contain personal information (photos, personal disclosures, memories and so on) about the self, which are then broadcasted to a network of individuals that the user deems a Facebook “friend.” The content posted by a Facebook user is done so at the discretion of the profile owner and may be updated at any time. The information broadcasted on Facebook is then open to receiving both quantitative (i.e., likes, reactions), and/or qualitative (i.e., comments, messaging) feedback from the user’s Facebook friends. Since Facebook was introduced to the public in 2005, the basic function of creating a personal profile, which is then viewed, and responded to, by friends has remained consistent, although Facebook has continued to create features (e.g., reactions, Facebook messenger) that make connecting with friends’ content even easier (Gramlich, 2018).

Facebook has rapidly gained popularity since it’s induction to the general public. Internationally, over 2.27 billion people visit Facebook every month, with over 1.49 billion visits taking place every day (Stats, 2018). In fact, in October 2018 the Pew Research Centre reported that Facebook remains the most popular social networking site among adults in the United States by a large margin (Gramlich, 2018). Further, Facebook was rated second in the United States (to video sharing site YouTube) for most visited social media website in 2018 (Gramlich, 2018). One of the potential reasons for its immense popularity is that there are a multitude of features on Facebook, as well as a variety of different ways to use the social networking site—all of which offer the user the ability to instantaneously connect with their friendship network. For instance, people can passively observe their Facebook friends by scrolling through the newsfeed, or browsing friends’ photos/timelines; this type of Facebook behaviour is typically regarded as passive Facebook use (e.g. Ryan & Xenos, 2011; Tandoc, Ferrucci, & Duffy, 2015). In addition, people can engage more actively while on Facebook, such that users are able to disclose information about themselves in the form of photo and status updates (writing what is on a person's mind), as well as sharing links, memories, or memes that one affiliates with. These types of Facebook behaviours are typically referred to as active Facebook use (e.g., Ryan & Xenos, 2011). Due to the huge popularity and variety of social functions while on Facebook, researchers have begun to examine how this particular site may actually impact users’ subjective well-being.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Downward Social Comparison: Instances where the targets of social comparison appear to be doing worse than oneself.

Selective Self Presentation: The idea that users are able to manipulate the information presented about themselves on social media so that it is framed in the most attractive, desirable, socially acceptable way.

Upward Social Comparison: Instances where the targets of social comparison appear to be better than oneself.

Passive Facebook Use: An approach by which Facebook users surveil others through scrolling the newsfeed and browsing timelines.

Social Comparison: A process by which individuals compare themselves to others as means of gaining information on what is most popular and acceptable, then making self-evaluations based on these observations.

Social media: Any technological medium that enables individuals to connect with their social networks (e.g., texting, e mail, social networking sites).

Active Facebook Use: An approach by which Facebook users interact with other users through sharing textual and pictorial information, sending messages, and reacting to others’ posts. Instances where the targets of social comparison appear to be doing better than oneself.

Subjective Well-Being: The evaluation of one’s own life including an assessment of overall life satisfaction and emotional responses to life events.

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