25 July 2018

Seeing other people’s holiday snaps online makes us sad, according to new research from Dr Ben Marder.

A survey of Facebook users shows 90 percent of people are likely to feel low when they see friends travel posts.

These negative emotions prompt differing reactions among photo browsers according to their age.

Older users—those born before 1980—say that travel envy motivates them to book a holiday, the study shows.

The younger browsers—born after 1980—are more likely to go on a digital detox and cut down on their Facebook use. They also report feeling motivated to do other things to make them happy, such as shopping online or revisiting their own snaps from previous holidays.

Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Exeter and Falmouth, and Stockholm School of Economics analysed data from people between 18 and 70 years old.

More than 800 Facebook users reported their reactions to friends’ holiday posts in anonymous online surveys and telephone interviews.

Women are more likely to feel down because posts made them envious of friends spending time with partners or families, researchers say.

Older people are more likely to report feeling sad because they feel they are missing out on adventure and time with loved ones.

These findings help us understand the emotional and behavioural outcomes of viewing travel posts. They show how those somewhat idyllic posts by friends on social media are likely to make us feel sad in our own lives and take measures to make us feel happier.
Dr Ben Marder

Dr Ben Marder is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing. This study is published in the Journal of Travel Research.