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Social media users in a bad mood look to the less fortunate

The German word “schadenfreude” – translated into English as “harm joy” – is when you take happiness from someone else’s misfortune.

A cruel concept to be sure, yet the majority of us do it on social media when we’re in a bad mood, according to a new study by researchers at Ohio State University, which could help us understand our target audience’s habits a little better.

Multiple studies have already proven that people who spend all day surfing Facebook’s News Feed are far more likely to be “frustrated, angry or lonely” – the theory is that after being flooded by happy pictures and status updates, we start to feel inadequate in comparison.

So it makes sense that social media users in a bad mood are more likely to spend more time focusing on people worse off than them.

The study involved 168 college students and a fake social platform called “SocialLink”, and found a clear link between being in a bad mood and looking at people less successful or attractive.

The fake site featured eight individual profiles with blurred out profile pictures and generic status updates – mentioning nothing about their career, education or personal attractiveness.

The researchers wanted the profiles to appear as either attractive and successful, or unattractive and unsuccessful – so they gave the eight profiles a low ranking of ½ out of 5 or a high ranking of 4 ½ out of 5 for “career success” and “hotness rating”.


In order to put the students in a good or bad mood, researchers conducted a mock facial emotion recognition test, and told them their performance was either “terrible” or “excellent” to put them in a good or bad mood.

Then they let the students loose onto the social site.

While those in a good mood spent more time on the “successful” and “attractive” profiles, the students in a bad mood spent far more time on the profiles of the “unsuccessful” or “unattractive”.

Co-author of the study and assistant professor at VU University Amsterdam, Benjamin Johnson, said most people flock to Facebook to connect with friends and see positive content.

“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.” he said.

So if you’re one of the 13 million people Australians on Facebook, you too could find yourself  prowling for unfortunate friends on the social networking site for a much needed ego boost.

Posted by Dylan Brown

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