I recently spent some time with a friend who confessed she was depressed -- and what was causing her bad mood was Facebook. No, it wasn't the complaining updates, the political bickering, or even the pics of abused animals that did it. Instead, she was depressed over other friends' happy photos. Especially their holiday family photo albums. It made her long for a time when she'd find someone to settle down with herself. She's young and has plenty of time, but seeing all of those "Look how fabulous and happy we are!" pics had had an unexpected consequence: She was jealous and down. And apparently she's far from the only one.

According to two new studies, one third of people felt "worse" and "miserable" after visiting Facebook and spying on people's supposedly glamorous, exciting, and fantastically happy lives. Jealousy could erupt from pretty much anything -- pics of someone's vacation, someone's engagement, someone's kid, or even their pet. Said one of the researchers:

We have scientifically demonstrated that online networks provided access to lots of positive news and profiles from successful 'friends' that trigger jealousy.

I think human beings are wired to be jealous. Occasionally, I've mysteriously found myself suffering pangs of jealousy over seeing pictures of people with stuff I wouldn't want in a million years -- like a friend who posts lovely pics of her, her husband, and their SIX CHILDREN. Trust me when I say I know I do NOT want six kids. But sometimes when I see their photos, I get a little envious anyway. Explain that?!

What helps is to remember that a picture is NOT the reality. My friend, for instance, found herself indescribably jealous over one couple's ultra-romantic holiday photos -- yet she knows that the marriage is in big trouble. People have an amazing ability to look ecstatic when the camera flashes -- even if they are far from it.

It also helps to remember that people might be just as envious of you. My friend discovered this when some people commented on her seemingly endlessly exciting life. She doesn't see it that way -- but everyone else does.

Facebook is just not real life. So no sense getting jealous over it. There's an old saying: "Never compare your insides to other people's outsides." I'd say never compare your anything to other people's Facebook.

Do you get jealous over pictures on Facebook?


Image via Olga.Palma/Flickr