2018 research published in Computers in Human Behavior examines the kind of social media posts which cause users to experience feelings of envy.
It uses a definition of envy which reads: “[envy] arises when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it.” The authors note that envy can feel negative, and can worsen the relationship with the envied party.
That said, envy can also be a motivating force. Further, it can drive purchasing decisions and so a better understanding may be able to assist advertisers.
The study describes how ‘experiential’ posts, such as pictures of holidays, have a different impact to ‘material’ posts, such as an image of a new gadget.
Previous research has indicated that experiential posts cause more feelings of envy, but the most notable study had not controlled for the amount of posts seen. The feelings of envy, therefore, may have been the result of volume rather than anything specific about experiential posts.
Other work in the space was contradictory: one study found that participants were more jealous of someone with a better laptop than someone who had been on a better holiday, while another found holidays caused more envy than new iPhones.
The study found that experiential posts do indeed trigger more envy than material posts. On top of this, users encounter such posts more regularly than material posts.
It adds that participants liked people who posted about experiences more than they liked people who posted about material possessions, which may be one reason for their higher frequency.
Read more here.