The following is excerpted from an online article posted by PsyPost.
New research examining 15 years’ worth of research indicates that comparing ourselves to people who seem better off than us on social media can result in several negative psychological outcomes. The new findings appear in the journal Media Psychology.
To examine the outcomes of social media use, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis — a statistical technique used in research to combine data from multiple studies that have investigated a similar research question. It involves synthesizing the results of individual studies, using statistical methods to calculate a pooled effect size that represents the overall magnitude and direction of the relationship between variables of interest.
The researchers were particularly interested in examining the consequences of social comparisons made on social media. When we compare ourselves to someone else who we perceive to be superior in some way, our reactions can take two dominant forms. We can either feel inspired and motivated by the person we’re comparing ourselves to (assimilation) or we can feel a sense of inferiority (contrast).
The authors conducted a systematic search to find relevant articles for their meta-analysis. Forty-eight studies were included, which represented data from 7,679 participants.
This study found that when we compare ourselves to others on social media, we are more likely to feel worse (contrast) than to better (assimilation). This is in line with previous research on social comparison in other contexts.
Upward comparison had the largest effect on body image, followed by self-esteem, mental health, and subjective well-being. These effects were not dependent on the age and gender of participants.
The study, “A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Social Media Exposure to Upward Comparison Targets on Self-Evaluations and Emotions,“ was authored by Carly A. McComb, Eric J. Vanman, and Stephanie J. Tobin.