Service of Envy and Facebook’s Place in It

May 12th, 2014

Categories: Competition, Envy, Work

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

I’ve been asked countless times by my husband and/or friends “Why do you believe so-and-so?” when I share improbable news of an imbecile’s stratospheric salary, bonus or new client with astronomical fee.

Pinnocchio 2That’s why I was surprised that there are so many people like me: They believe what they read and see on Facebook about friends’ magical trips, happy families, awards and tournaments won, four-star meals enjoyed and so forth. According to Jennifer Breheny Wallace, a University of Michigan study last summer found that “the more people used Facebook, the less satisfied they were with their lives.”

This fact was the angle for her Wall Street Journal article “Put that Resentment to Good Use,” where we read that benign envy can be the motivation to earn a better salary, get a fabulous bonus or add a munificent client to your roster. Researchers in the Netherlands found that with students, admiration didn’t rank as high as benign envy when it comes to best test results. Students who felt the latter emotion showed increased creativity and imagination in their responses earning better grades.

Benign envy improved attention and memory according to another study.

Pack of dogs waiting for foodMalicious envy, where a person tries to challenge another’s success, is another story about which Wallace devotes only a few lines so I’ll share an example of my own. I worked for a PR agency where the owner threw clients i.e. work up in the air for the account people to grab as though he was tossing steak to a pack of hungry dogs. This technique to generate rampant competition and envy among employees didn’t work for me. I left after the prerequisite year.

What’s your experience and or observation about envy as a motivator?

You can do it

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4 Responses to “Service of Envy and Facebook’s Place in It”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    I feel my leg is being pulled clear out of its socket. Envy is a debilitating, hostile and possibly lethal emotion which can not only lead to horrific acts, but even murder. At its most harmless, it’s a waste of time. The desire to meet and/or excel at another’s game is called ambition and/or competitiveness.

  2. P.G. Brown Said:

    What I know about Facebook is just a little bit more than what I learned from that movie about its disgusting creator. I can’t imagine being envious of him or of anyone having anything to do with him or it.

    I find the public display of self-aggrandizement that it apparently generates offensive and degrading, and the exhibitionistic spewing forth of one’s innermost thoughts and feelings, which I am told that one finds on it, embarrassingly puerile.

    Motivating? Nonsense. Envious? Nonsense. Thank you, but no thank you.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    According to the reporter–and the researchers she quotes–there are two distinct types of envy, though like you, I associate either with negative feelings that stop progress rather than stimulate it. However, according to results of the studies, we are wrong. I like to be the best to please myself and my clients–unrelated to and hopefully well beyond others.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    This fad will pass as all others before it have and will be replaced by still others with both beneficial and negative aspects.

    Once enough people return home from vacation with an empty house because of all those images they posted of the smiling family waving from a Bateau Mouche in Paris with Notre Dame in the background–“Oh, the Jones’s are away? Goody,” says the local thief,”–and young ‘uns’ chances of getting intoYale and Harvard are dashed because of inappropriate images they posted on any of the social media options, some may take a second look.

    Meanwhile, I can see how kids and insecure people might suffer when they see what the Jones’s have on Facebook, and all of it is in their faces day and night. It’s particularly hard on parents whose incomes can’t cover the cost of all the electronic gizmos and gizmo add-ons and must-have clothing—but no harder than on the parents whose kids were tempted by TV commercials since the 1950s and every parent leaving a grocery or big box store with all those tempting goodies placed at perfect heights for the little ones in shopping carts or standing and waiting to check out.

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