Travel content triggers Facebook envy (and other not-so happy outcomes)

Envy is the “missing link” around the negative aspects of social media – and travel-related content is often at the centre of it, according to a study.

An investigation by the Sauder School of Business (part of the University of British Columbia) wanted to establish how social media has an influence on depression, anxiety and narcissistic behaviour.

The report’s author, professor Izak Benbasat, says travel photos are a “leading contributor” to Facebook envy, an emotion that triggers the network’s participants to try and post their “most perfect pictures”.

This cycle of content creates an “unrealistic portrayal of life” which is actually not motivated by a desire to make others jealous but, instead, a need to “compete and keep up appearances”.

Benbasat says:

“Sharing pictures and stories about the highlights of your life – that’s so much of what Facebook is for, so you can’t take that away.

“But I think it’s important for people to know what impact it can have on their well-being.”

The report found that travel and leisure-related content was the most dominant object of envy, by a wide margin.

But interestingly, this factor – when compared to other social areas, such as job, studies, material possessions – was exclusive to social media.

In other words: participants in the study did not show similar signs of “envy” when hearing about the trips of their friends and colleagues in an off-line setting.

Of course, marketers do not really care about such things as social responsibility, nor should they given that Facebook provides them with the platform to hit potential consumers in an incredibly targeted way.

Still, the report highlights how advertisers are able to optimise their campaigns to target specific groups where so-called envy may be taking place.

“Moreover, since envy may work to enhance the desirability of products that caused it in the first place, advertisers may seek to monetize this knowledge by promoting common envy-inducing objects.

“For example, since travel and leisure represent the major cause of envy on SNSs, ads for travel destinations may be effective with users who have a high level of social information consumption.”

NB: Travel envy image via Shutterstock.

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Kevin May

About the Writer :: Kevin May

Kevin May was a co-founder and member of the editorial team from September 2009 to June 2017.





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