The idea that Facebook causes jealousy isn't new. A study back in 2009 essentially demonstrated that romantic relationships were often suffering from jealousy induced by Facebook. The same study is still being referenced today. Unfortunately, there are a few signs that this is becoming a much bigger trend than something driven by the insecurity of dating.
For the first time in human history, there is a place where any of us can go to be surrounded by only good news. Despite the troubles in the world, or your personal struggles – Facebook offers a nearly pain free bubble. Every status update is filled with friends getting married, colleagues finding their dream job, kids getting a new puppy and people sharing their vacation in real time. After all, how many people really share moments of desperation or loneliness, or just the ordinariness of their lives on Facebook?
In a world where we are only a few characters away from instantly experiencing the best moments in the lives of everyone around us, the bad news is that it makes us even more conscious of the normal and not-particularly-shareworthy times in our own lives. It leads to a new kind of voluntary social media jealousy. We start spending hours obsessing over what others are doing and comparing it endlessly to our own lives. How many times a day do you check your Klout score? What about waiting for Google Alerts with your name? Or your blog ranking?
Greensurfing is a term to describe the time that many people choose to spend online "surfing" websites, social networks and conversations that cause them to feel more jealousy towards others for doing the things they wish they were (or could be) doing.
There are at 3 big reasons why I think this is becoming such a big behavioural trend:
- Rankings are everywhere. No matter what you do online, there are plenty of free services to rank everything from your influence to your relative level of hotness. You are always being measured – just seconds away from someone slapping a rank or number on your back to define you.
- People share good news more often. The simple face of social media is that people tend to share the good more often than the bad – so you end up with a warped sense of reality if you believe that people's lives are only as positive and happy as they share on Facebook.
- Real time updates make it addictive. When your score or what people share is updated in real time, it makes watching the flow an addictive process. When the mobile phone chimes with a new update, you can't help but check it.
The biggest reason I thought about writing this post is that I am about to enter a greensurfing moment of my own – with my new book finally launching I know it will be hard for me to resist checking my Amazon Sales Rank constantly over the next several weeks. It is the ultimate comparison of your book (and yes, your popularity) against other Authors. And keeping it consistently high is almost impossible.
So what's my advice to conquer the impulse for greensurfing? I wish I could tell you I had the magic solution, but I don't. Awareness helps – just knowing that you are doing it can help you to change your behaviour. But at the end of the day, it doesn't have to be all bad. Check your online "score" on whatever platform matters to you. Enjoy your friends amazing life updates. But don't let your numbers define you. Klout scores are fine, just as long as they don't tempt you into to becoming a "Klouchebag."
Image Credit: Facebook Breakup Image