Please Stop Rubbing Your Relationship In My Face(book): An Investigation of Online Romantic Social Comparison
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It is well-documented that social networking sites such as Facebook set the stage for social comparison. Such comparison has been linked to a number of negative outcomes including envy, negative moods, and lower self-esteem. The present research aims to extend current understanding of online social comparison by investigating how it pertains to romantic relationships. I hypothesized that for individuals high in attachment anxiety (compared to those low in this construct), online romantic social comparison might be related to negative consequences—which, in the current project, was operationalized as lower mood/affect and state self-esteem. Further, I hypothesized that there would be an interaction between attachment anxiety and relationship insecurities on these negative outcomes, such that the expected difference of attachment anxiety would be more pronounced under conditions priming relationship insecurities, relative to a control condition. Two experiments were conducted, one of which focused on single individuals, and the second focusing on individuals who were themselves in dating relationships. The paradigms of each entailed experimental manipulation of a key relationship-related variable (for single individuals, pessimism for future relationships; for dating individuals, the presence or absence of rejection threat), subsequent exposure to romantic content from Facebook, and finally, measures of affect and state self-esteem. I discovered partial support for the hypothesis that some single individuals—particularly those with higher, rather than lower, attachment anxiety—do indeed report feeling more negative moods and lower state self-esteem following exposure to romantic online content, in contrast to single individuals who had instead viewed neutral online content. The association between attachment anxiety and negative outcome was especially pertinent if individuals had been primed to believe that their own future romantic prospects were grim, or if attention had been drawn to their singleness. Among dating individuals, less support for hypotheses was found; however, exploratory post-hoc analyses revealed a promising (albeit weak) trend indicating that reinvestigation of the current hypotheses would be prudent.