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When people feel down, browsing social media profiles of people they consider less attractive, not-so successful, or less well-off can provide a pick-me-up.

Ellen Seidman
October 13, 2014

When people feel down, browsing social media profiles of people they consider less attractive, not-so successful, or less well-off can provide a pick-me-up. That's per a new study on social media schadenfreude from Ohio State University. Researchers asked 168 college students experiencing either good or bad moods to browse a made-up social networking site and look at user profiles, with varying levels of "hotness" and "career success." People who weren't feeling their best spent a lot more time on lower-ranked profiles, perhaps in an effort to elevate their egos.

Personally, I find that browsing Facebook and Instagram gives me serious domestic anxiety—the pumpkins and mums on our front porch seem downright pathetic in comparison to other people's Halloween decor extravaganzas. Mostly, I experience the schadenfreude effect from reading online news stories. Or, rather, the "Today Is A Good Day Because I Wasn't Attacked By Killer Bees" effect. That's how I felt last week when I read about a poor landscaper in Arizona who died after a 10-year-old hive with some 800,000 bees went wild. And I felt the same thing when yet another story about bees attacking a man, this one in Texas, hit my news feed. (Killer bees: trending!)

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That's the thing about our online existence: Every day, we're exposed to countless local stories and videos, along with international tidbits, about various freaky things that befall other people. (I do not mean gloating over avoiding major disasters or epidemics—this is about sidestepping random incidents and situations).

Sad to say, it regularly gives me perspective on how relatively good my life is. Phew, don't have to deal with mountain lions prowling our neighborhood! Whoa, at least I wasn't on a plane stuck on a tarmac for a bazillion hours! At least my partner doesn't like to endlessly quote Lord of The Rings, like that woman's boyfriend in that viral video!

Who needs shrinks when you have a daily dose of web therapy?

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