FEEM working papers "Note di lavoro"
Date: 9/3/2016

Keeping up with the e-Joneses: Do Online Social Networks Raise Social Comparisons?


Fabio Sabatini (Sapiena University of Rome, LCSR National Research University Higher School of Economics); Francesco Sarracino (Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg STATEC, Agence pour la normalisation et l'économie de la connaissance ANEC, LCSR National Research University Higher School of Economics)

JEL n.: D83, I31, O33, Z1, Z13
Keywords: Social Networks, Social Networking Sites, Social Comparisons, Satisfaction with Income, Relative Deprivation


Online social networks, such as Facebook, disclose an unprecedented volume of personal information amplifying the occasions for social comparisons, which can be a cause of frustration. We test the hypothesis that the use of social networking sites (SNS) increases social comparisons as proxied by people’s dissatisfaction with their income and we compare the effect of SNS in Western and Eastern European countries. After controlling for the possibility of reverse causality, our results suggest that SNS users have a higher probability to compare their achievements with those of others. In Western countries, this leads individuals to a lower satisfaction with their economic conditions. The opposite holds in Eastern countries, where upward comparisons seemingly strengthen the hope that an improvement in individuals’ economic conditions will occur (so called “tunnel effect”). We conclude that SNS can be a strong engine of frustration for their users depending on the institutional and economic circumstances.


Suggested citation: Sabatini, F., F. Sarracino, (2016), 'Keeping up with the e-Joneses: Do Online Social Networks Raise Social Comparisons?', Nota di Lavoro 32.2016, Milan, Italy: Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei

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