I admit it – I love social media. I enjoy seeing people’s pictures, jokes, and life updates. I also like to post and interact frequently. I usually opt for pictures of my Dachshunds Apple and Otto, the children or me and my husband when we dress up. I avoid posting pictures of my unfortunate cooking disasters, crazy hair days or some vague mention of a bad day. I’m glad there wasn’t Facebook when my children were little because they cried all the time and I probably wouldn’t have found a moment when they weren’t teary-eyed and red-faced.

Figuring this was everyone’s strategy, I was surprised when I heard that a friend took himself completely offline because he found it was making him depressed and insecure. He had what is called FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and often found himself dissatisfied in comparison to others. It occurred to me that he might have thought that Facebook represented someone’s actual life. 

As I researched this issue and talked to friends, it became evident that one of the more common and unfortunate consequences of having a predominantly online social life is the phenomenon of “social media envy.” Social media envy occurs when you become jealous of someone else’s life as portrayed through their social accounts. The cause of the jealousy could stem from seeing vacation pictures, happy families or glamorous party pictures. Ultimately, social media envy is a real problem and can lead to depression and diminished self-worth. You may discover that even you can’t live up to your own online life with “photoshopped” and enhanced pictures where you look far better online than in person. If you find yourself constantly comparing yourself to your screen friends and feeling inadequate, you probably have a case of the “envies.” 

So, how do you prevent, or at least avoid social media envy? Here are a few ideas: 

1) Unplug – the simplest solution to the problem. This is not an easy thing to do, especially if you use social media for work, but it can be the quickest way to fix your mood. If you don’t see any posts, you can’t be jealous right?   

2) Unfollow – Is someone making you particularly envious? Maybe it’s successful college friends, a former love interest or work colleagues. You can unfollow people without unfriending them. 

3) Schedule – If you are using social media for work, either posting, managing accounts or monitoring, you may want to try to use a social media schedule. If you stick to a set schedule, you are less likely to find yourself scrolling down a page. Try to focus on doing your work, then closing out the app. Don’t get caught in the social media trap.

4) Remember – Remember that most people are using social media as a tool to show off their best selves. You still might have FOMO, but that’s just a small sliver of their lives. They don’t look that way most of the time, they are probably working hard for that vacation 11 months out of the year and their kid probably had a melt-down after that pretty picture in the park. 


Mary Louise VanNatta, APR, CAE is the CEO of VanNatta Public Relations a PR, Event Planning and Strategic Communications firm located in Salem, Oregon. PRSalem.com, @PRSalem.

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