In a bad mood? Head to Facebook and find someone worse off

October 02, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - When people are in a bad mood, they are more likely to actively search social networking sites like Facebook to find friends who are doing even worse than they are, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that, in general, people use social media to connect with people who are posting positive and success-oriented updates.

"But when people are in a negative mood, they start to show more interest in the less attractive, less successful people on their social media sites," said Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, co-author of the study and professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

These findings give more context to recent studies that found people who spend a lot of time on Facebook tend to be more frustrated, angry and lonely - presumably because of all the happy updates from friends that make them feel inadequate.

"People have the ability to manage how they use social media," said Benjamin Johnson, co-author of the study, recently a doctoral student in communication at Ohio State and now an assistant professor at VU University Amsterdam.

"Generally, most of us look for the positive on social media sites. But if you're feeling vulnerable, you'll look for people on Facebook who are having a bad day or who aren't as good at presenting themselves positively, just to make yourself feel better."

The study was published online in the journal Computers in Human Behavior and will appear in the December 2014 print edition.

The study involved 168 college students. Researchers first put participants in a good or bad mood by having them take a test on facial emotion recognition. Regardless of their answers, the students were randomly told their performance was "terrible" (to put them in a bad mood) or "excellent" (to put them in a good mood).

Afterward, all participants were asked to review what they were told was a new social networking site called SocialLink. The overview page presented preview profiles of eight individuals, which the students could click on to read more.

The key to the study was that the eight profiles were designed to make the people profiled appear attractive and successful - or unattractive or unsuccessful.

Each profiled person was ranked on a scale of 0 to 5 on both career success (number of dollar signs next to their profile) and attractiveness, or "hotness" (number of hearts).

Each profile had either half of a dollar sign (low career success) or 4 1/2 dollar signs (high career success). They had either one-half heart (low attractiveness) or 4 1/2 hearts (high attractiveness).

The profile images were blurred so that participants could not see what they actually looked like.

When participants clicked on the profiles, they found that all the status updates were much the same. They were all relatively mundane and didn't discuss any career or academic success, physical appearance or romantic relationships.

"So the only real difference between the profiles was the ratings of career success and attractiveness signified by the dollar signs and hearts," Johnson said.

Overall, the researchers found that people tended to spend more time on the profiles of people who were rated as successful and attractive.

But participants who had been put in a negative mood spent significantly more time than others browsing the profiles of people who had been rated as unsuccessful and unattractive.

"If you need a self-esteem boost, you're going to look at people worse off than you," Knobloch-Westerwick said. "You're probably not going to be looking at the people who just got a great new job or just got married.

"One of the great appeals of social network sites is that they allow people to manage their moods by choosing who they want to compare themselves to."
-end-
Written by Jeff Grabmeier

Ohio State University

Related Social Media Articles from Brightsurf:

it's not if, but how people use social media that impacts their well-being
New research from UBC Okanagan indicates what's most important for overall happiness is how a person uses social media.

Social media postings linked to hate crimes
A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, explores the connection between social media and hate crimes.

How Steak-umm became a social media phenomenon during the pandemic
A new study outlines how a brand of frozen meat products took social media by storm - and what other brands can learn from the phenomenon.

COVID-19: Social media users more likely to believe false information
A new study led by researchers at McGill University finds that people who get their news from social media are more likely to have misperceptions about COVID-19.

Stemming the spread of misinformation on social media
New research reported in the journal Psychological Science finds that priming people to think about accuracy could make them more discerning in what they subsequently share on social media.

Looking for better customer engagement value? Be more strategic on social media
According to a new study from the University of Vaasa and University of Cyprus, the mere use of social media alone does not generate customer value, but rather, the connections and interactions between the firm and its customers -- as well as among customers themselves -- can be used strategically for resource transformation and exchanges between the interacting parties.

Exploring the use of 'stretchable' words in social media
An investigation of Twitter messages reveals new insights and tools for studying how people use stretched words, such as 'duuuuude,' 'heyyyyy,' or 'noooooooo.' Tyler Gray and colleagues at the University of Vermont in Burlington present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on May 27, 2020.

How social media platforms can contribute to dehumanizing people
A recent analysis of discourse on Facebook highlights how social media can be used to dehumanize entire groups of people.

Social media influencers could encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines
Public health bodies should consider incentivizing social media influencers to encourage adolescents to follow social distancing guidelines, say researchers.

Social grooming factors influencing social media civility on COVID-19
A new study analyzing tweets about COVID-19 found that users with larger social networks tend to use fewer uncivil remarks when they have more positive responses from others.

Read More: Social Media News and Social Media Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.