Advances in Journalism and Communication, 2020, 8, 1-15
ISSN Online: 2328-4935
ISSN Print: 2328-4927
A Study on the Effect of Comparison
with Others and Social Support on
Life Satisfaction of Facebook
Dong Yang University, North Seoul Campus, South Korea
This study investigates the effect of Facebook users’ envy of other users and
social support on life satisfaction with self-esteem as a mediating variable.
The survey was conducted on 1332 female and male Facebook users in five
main Korean cities. The results showed that user’s envy of other people and
social support had a significant effect on life satisfaction. In addition, the great-
er the upward comparison with others, the lower the self-
esteem, which leads
to lower life satisfaction; When Facebook users upward compare themselves
with others, it lowers their self-esteem which in turn reduces their life satis-
faction. And when users have social support, they will have better self-
which leads to higher life satisfaction Finally, the implications, discussions
and limitations of this study are presented.
Facebook User Behavior, Self-Esteem, Upward Comparison with Others,
Social Support, Life Satisfaction
This paper investigates if people are happy or unhappy after using Facebook;
and to also observe if upward comparison by Facebook users and social support
affects life satisfaction using self-esteem as mediating variable. I investigate how
the variables’ self-esteem, upward social comparison of Facebook users and social
support affect life satisfaction. A common phenomenon on Facebook is that in-
dividuals upload images that exaggerate their life. It also allows users to com-
ment on their friend’s photos or to click on “Likes”. Because of these functions,
How to cite this paper:
Lee, S.-Y. (2020).
A Study on the Effect of Comparison with
Others and Social Support on Life Satisfa
tion of Facebook
Advances in Journalism
March 1, 2020
March 27, 2020
March 30, 2020
Copyright © 20
20 by author(s) and
Research Publishing Inc.
This work is licensed under the Creative
License (CC BY
DOI: 10.4236/ajc.2020.81001 Mar. 30, 2020 1 Advances in Journalism and Communication
Facebook is positioned as an emotional-oriented interaction service that com-
municates personal daily life experiences and emotions with their acquaintances
(Yoon & Lim, 2012).
Typically, they would post articles or photographs that would positively shape
their own image. Recent studies found that image management was the most
important reason for using Facebook (Yang, Kim, & Suh, 2012). Facebook users
would check on the images of other users to see how others respond to such im-
ages (Yang, Kim, & Suh, 2014). Research on the use of Facebook in relation to
narcissism has been actively conducted (Carpenter, 2012; Kapidzic, 2013; Panek,
Nardis, & Konrath, 2013).
As a part of academic efforts to understand the self-expression behavior of
SNS users, many studies have focused on psychological characteristics such as
personality and self-concept.
This study aims to find out whether Facebook usage contributes to the user’s
happiness, or to feelings of relative deprivation and diminished life satisfac-
tion. Specifically, I tried to find out how Facebook’s upward comparison with
users and social support affect life satisfaction using self-esteem as mediating
2. Theoretical Background
2.1. Upward Comparison of Facebook Users
In recent years, there has been an abundance of research on the social compari-
son effect arising from social networking (SNS) use. Social comparison is a psy-
chological process that determines how to evaluate oneself based on information
about others (Corcoran, Crusius, & Mussweiler, 2011). Much of the information
posted by users through the SNS is for the management of their own image, so
the content tends to be positively biased (Jordan, Monin, Dweck, Lovett, John, &
Gross, 2011; Lee-Won, Shim, Joo, & Park, 2014). Moreover, SNS users interact
with people they met online and offline. Thus, two factors, comparative similar-
ity and a higher level of personal friendship with acquaintances, can further
promote social comparison (Appel et al., 2016).
Upward social comparison could lead to negative emotions (Taylor & Shelley,
1993). Of course, people who strive to better themselves make upward compari-
sons with the goal of improving his or her abilities, but at the same time may run
the risk of experiencing disappointment or inability (Jang & Han, 2004). They
may end up feeling frustrated, incapable, unhappy (Alicke, LoSchiavo, Zerbst, &
Zhang, 1997; Marsh & Parker, 1984; Morse & Gergen, 1970; Wheeler, Martin, &
Suls, 1997), deprecating self-evaluation and feelings of inferiority (Marsh &
Parker, 1984; Morse & Gergen, 1970; Wheeler, Martin, & Suls, 1997). This is the
same in SNS space. SNS users are more likely to experience negative emotions
when they are exposed to other people’s information in the SNS space (Yang et
al., 2014; Lee, 2014).
DOI: 10.4236/ajc.2020.81001 2 Advances in Journalism and Communication
However, some researchers have found that exposure to other people’s infor-
mation on SNS does not always have a negative impact on their emotions (Buunk,
Kuyper, & van der Zee, 2005; Taylor, Wayment, & Carrillo, 1996). It may be
mediated or controlled by individual inner factors such as self-esteem, perceived
control over the situation, and dissatisfaction (Buunk, Collins, Taylor, VanYpe-
ren, & Dakof, 1990). Mai-Ly et al. (2014) also pointed out there is a third factor
in Facebook usage that induces negative emotions, suggesting the need to ex-
plore them. It depends on the person. For example, if you view people who have
a nice life, some may feel a sense of relative deprivation, but others may be in-
spired to achieve the same success (Yang, 2015). The effect of social comparison
will vary according to the Facebook user’s social comparison orientation level.
Recent studies show that life satisfaction is positively correlated with upward
and similar comparison with others on Facebook whilst downward comparison
is negatively correlated with life satisfaction (Mai-Ly et al., 2014).
Based on two studies Keum Hee-jo (2011) and Yang (2015), I examine the ef-
fect on life satisfaction as a result of using Facebook for upward comparison with
self-esteem as the mediating variable.
2.2. Social Support
Social support is an asset an individual receives through an online or offline so-
cial network, including both tangible help and intangible assistance (Stefanone &
Kwon, 2012). It is the material and emotional help an individual gets through
socially connected relationships, and the recognition of how much help is avail-
able when needed (Yang et al., 2012).
In the use of social media, interpersonal communication is important, and
seeking advice or help from others is the main motivation for use. In addition,
the level of awareness of how people sympathize and identify with their social
atmosphere or identity also influences social media commitment. The reason
why people communicate with each other through social media is to express
their desire for social connection or solidarity and to gain emotional ties and
emotional satisfaction (Kim, 2015).
Previous online applications such as chat rooms and forums were designed to
facilitate conversations with strangers. Web 2.0 and social media applications are
intended to facilitate interaction and communication with a social network.
Self-disclosure through SNS encourages people to share with their network in-
formation about themselves, their friends and their lives (Ahn, 2011). And in
SNS, they elicit more responses about their profiles. Positive responses to
self-disclosure in SNS are associated with high self-esteem, and research suggests
that high self-esteem is significantly associated with life satisfaction (Valkenburg
& Peter, 2009).
In this paper, we investigate if:
1) Facebook users who perceive that they have higher social support will
perceive their life satisfaction to be higher and;
DOI: 10.4236/ajc.2020.81001 3 Advances in Journalism and Communication
2) Good social support affects self-esteem which in turn affects life satis-
Self-esteem can be defined as the motivation to improve and maintain a positive
understanding of ego (Aronson, Wilson, & Akert, 2005; Vignoles, Regalia, Man-
zi, Golledge, & Scabini, 2006). Ego is defined as subjective conception of oneself
as an individual (Vignoles et al., 2006). The cues that represent ego in the rela-
tionship between oneself and others have different meanings depending on the
relationship between individuals or between individuals and groups (Deaux,
1992; Hitlin, 2003; Sedikides & Brewer, 2015).
Digital content posted on Facebook is perceived as extending a person’s ego,
where the content becomes their identity; that is it is regarded not as “mine”
but as “me” (Ferraro, Escalas, & Bettman, 2011; Belk, 1988). People with low
self-esteem disclose their information to gain confidence or to gain the praise and
social support of others, while those with high self-esteem disclose their infor-
mation because they think their attitudes or opinions are valuable (Lee & Goa,
2013; Baumeister, 1999). In the modern information age excessive self-expression
by high self-esteem persons has the potential to negatively impact the sociality of
the online space (Kim & Davis, 2008). It has also been argued that low self-esteem
can have a positive impact on social expansion (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe,
2007). Thus, the level of self-esteem can influence the method of self-expression
on social media.
Therefore, in this study, rather than assuming a simple relationship between
upward comparisons and negative emotions, research suggests that individual
internal factors such as self-esteem, perceived control over the situation, and
dissatisfaction can affect the relationship between the two variables (Buunk, Col-
lins, Taylor, VanYperen & Dakof, 1990). Mai-Ly et al. (2014) pointed out that
there is a third variable involved in the use of Facebook which contributes to
causing negative emotions, suggesting the need to explore it. The purpose of this
study is to confirm that upward comparison and social support will affect life sa-
tisfaction mediated by self-esteem.
2.4. Life Satisfaction
In empirical studies, life satisfaction has also been used to measure subjective
well-being concepts (Ellison, Steinfield & Lampe, 2007; Jun, Hartwell & Buhalis,
2012; Liu & LaRose; 2008). Life satisfaction can be defined as people’s emotional
responses, areas of satisfaction, and overall assessments (Diener, Suh, Lucas &
Smith, 1999), including both cognitive assessments and some positive and nega-
tive feelings (e.g., emotions) (Diener, 1994; Veenhoven, 1984).
As the modern society gradually shifts to a computer-based communication so-
ciety, the communication environment is also shifting from face-to-face com-
munication to computer mediated communication (CMC) such as instant mes-
DOI: 10.4236/ajc.2020.81001 4 Advances in Journalism and Communication
sages, online chats, and social media. The result that activity in cyberspace is
related to life satisfaction has already been suggested through previous studies.
The Internet enhances the self-esteem and overall well-being of the user and
ultimately has a positive impact on life satisfaction (Turkle, 2011; Jun, Hart-
well & Buhalis, 2012; Liu & LaRose, 2008). Accordingly, this study attempted
to confirm how upward comparison with others and social support influence on
life satisfaction through mediating self-esteem. The research model is below in
Based on the literature review, I propose the following Research Questions.
Hypothesis 1: Upward comparison with others will affect life satisfaction.
Hypothesis 2: Social support affect life satisfaction.
Hypothesis 3: Upward comparison with others on Facebook mediated self-esteem
will affect life satisfaction.
Hypothesis 4: Social support mediated by self-esteem will also affect life satis-
3. Research Methodology
3.1. Data Collection
This study used an Internet survey conducted by Mbrain, an Internet research
company, to collect data on male and female Facebook users aged between twen-
ties and fifties living in five metropolitan cities, Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Gwangju
and Daejeon. I examined patterns of Facebook use, self-esteem, upward compari-
son with others, social support, life satisfaction, and other demographic back-
3.2. Survey Respondents
The survey sampled 1332 users, and the number of samples by region, gender
and age is summarized in Table 1 below.
3.3. Measurement Variables
In this study, the independent variables are social support and upward compari-
son with others, the mediating variable is self-esteem, and the dependent varia-
ble is life satisfaction.
Social support was measured by adapting five questions from Kim (2015) that
were originally developed by Zimet et al. (1988).
Upward comparison with others used eight items from Yang, Kim and Seo
(2014). Self-esteem was measured by 7 out of 11 questions that Kim Moon-joo
(1988) used, which was itself drawn from Rosenberg (1965). Life satisfaction was
measured using five items from the study of Cho Mi-hye, Jeon Soo-hyun, and
Choi Eun-kyung (2014). The mean and standard deviation of the median, in-
dependent and dependent variables measured by gender and age are shown in
DOI: 10.4236/ajc.2020.81001 5 Advances in Journalism and Communication
Figure 1. Research Model.
Table 1. Profile of the survey respondents.
Table 2. Mean and standard deviation of measurement items by gender and age.
Male (n = 655)
Female (n = 677)
20’s (n = 290)
30’s (n = 313)
40’s (n = 364)
50’s (n = 365)
DOI: 10.4236/ajc.2020.81001 6 Advances in Journalism and Communication
3.4. Research Method
In this study, SPSS 19 and AMOS were used for statistical analysis of collected
data. To confirm the construct validity of measurement variables, exploratory fac-
tor analysis was performed, followed by confirmatory factor analysis. Structural
model equation analysis was conducted to identify the direct and indirect effects
of upward comparison with others and social support on life satisfaction me-
diated by self-esteem.
4. Research Results
4.1. Verification of Reliability and Validity of Measurement
An exploratory factor analysis and a reliability test were conducted for the inde-
pendent variable, upward comparison with others, social support, the dependent
variable, life satisfaction and the mediating variable self-esteem. Factor analysis
was based on principal component extraction method (Principle Component
Extraction) and orthogonal rotation (Varimax), with the optimal factor structure
extracted by determining the number of factors with eigen value greater than 1.
As shown in Table 3, four factors were extracted. Upward comparison with oth-
ers with 8 items, self-esteem with 7 items, life satisfaction with 5 items, and so-
cial support with 5 items. The eigenvalues for each factor were 6.177, 4.475,
3.900 and 3.664, with a total cumulative explanatory variable of 58.76%. Factor
loadings were all greater than 0.6 except for one. This is a very suitable result for
factor analysis. The Cronbach’s
values, which is the internal consistency relia-
bility coefficients, was greater than 0.8, a very high reliability test result.
In order to verify the validity of measurement variables, structural model equ-
ation analysis was performed through confirmatory factor analysis and confirming
the relationship between the measurement model and the latent variables in which
inappropriate measurement variables are eliminated (Lee & Lim, 2011). Struc-
tural equations suggest the goodness of fit of models through chi-square (
ues and RMR, GFI, IFI, TLI, CFI, and RMSEA (Moon Su-Baek, 2009). In this
study, confirmatory factor analysis was conducted to verify the validity of the
measurement model. The goodness-of-fit index of the model is
2 = 3353.77 (df
< 0.01), RMR =0.090, IFI = 0.928, TLI = 0.919, CFI = 0.925, RMSEA
=0.061. Therefore, the standard of fitness for the model is acceptable.
In addition, there is concern that the use of a Likert scale for subjectively
self-reporting measurement of the variables in this study is prone to common
method bias (Podsakoff, Mackenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). Confirmatory fac-
tor analysis was conducted to confirm whether there were problems with this
method. I analyzed the measurement model that estimates one potential patent
variable with all the measurement variables,
2/df = 60.539 (
< 0.01), GFI = 387,
TLI = 0.372, CFI = 0.427, and RMSEA = 0.212. As a result, the coefficients
showed a low standard of fitness and accordingly there is no problem with com-
mon method bias.
DOI: 10.4236/ajc.2020.81001 7 Advances in Journalism and Communication
Table 3. Measurement items’ exploratory factor analysis and cronbach α coefficients.
As I see others accomplish something, I compare it to my relatively
. 0.802 −0.229 −0.078 0.015
When I see someone else’s wonderful lifestyle on Facebook,
I compare it to my situation when I haven’t experienced it.
0.801 −0.180 0.047 0.038
I compare myself to other people working so hard, but I am not. 0.801 −0.213 −0.042 0.024
I often see other people’s superior appearance or physical condition
and compare it with my unattractive appearance
. 0.799 −0.245 0.080 −0.013
I compare myself to others owning luxury items, but I don’t have them. 0.793 −0.201 0.130 −0.025
I see other people having many good human relationships and compare
that to my lack of good relationships.
0.777 −0.234 0.022 −0.054
I see other people having happy daily lives and compare that to my not
so happy daily life.
0.771 −0.272 0.004 −0.074
I compare myself to other people who are very popular, but I am not. 0.762 −0.208 0.077 −0.067
Sometimes I think I’m a very useless person. −0.202 0.812 −0.019 0.184
Overall, I seem to be a social failure. −0.192 0.812 −0.009 0.207
I don’t have much to boast about. −0.183 0.772 −0.003 0.121
Sometimes I feel unhappy. −0.257 0.760 0.141 0.129
Sometimes I think I’m incompetent. −0.242 0.732 0.143 −0.058
Sometimes I want to be someone else. −0.199 0.684 0.131 −0.070
I don’t have anyone understands me fully. −0.174 0.550 −0.192 0.083
The situation in my life is very good (after using Facebook). 0.041 0.052 0.858 0.235
(After using Facebook) I’ve accomplished the important things I want
in my life
. 0.018 0.051 0.853 0.239
(After using Facebook) I’m happy with my life. −0.001 0.109 0.846 0.241
(After using Facebook) Overall my life is close to ideal. 0.078 −0.012 0.826 0.156
If I can live my life again (after using Facebook) I will hardly change
0.039 −0.031 0.813 0.050
My friends help me a lot. −0.023 0.107 0.171 0.864
I can talk about my worries with my friends. 0.006 0.111 0.137 0.855
I have someone to talk to when I am happy or sad. 0.010 0.082 0.214 0.803
My family helps me. −0.066 0.083 0.090 0.771
Someone helps me when I need it. 0.013 0.068 0.231 0.756
Eigenvalue 6.177 4.475 3.900 3.664
% variance 19.925 14.435 12.581 11.819
Cumulative variance 19.925 34.360 46.941 58.760
Reliability 0.951 0.892 0.918 0.892
DOI: 10.4236/ajc.2020.81001 8 Advances in Journalism and Communication
4.2. Hypothesis Test Results Analysis
This study estimates parameters using maximum likelihood estimation, Regres-
sion coefficient values are expressed as estimates in Amos and are divided into
non-standardized and standardized estimates. It can be concluded that the criti-
cal ratio (CR), measured by the p value in general regression analysis, is causal at
the 5% significance level for two-tailed tests when the absolute value is greater
than 1.96. In the final model, the bootstrap procedure of Shrout and Bolger
(2002) was performed to confirm the indirect effect of self-esteem. The results
are presented in Table 4 below.
The fitness of the research model was generally acceptable. In this study,
2356.709 (df = 246,
< 0.01), RMR =0.082, CFI = 0.930, TLI = 0.923, IFI =
0.932, RMSEA =0.068. It has been shown to meet requirements generally (Hong,
2000). As a result of parameter estimation based on the structural equation model,
upward comparison with others (
< 0.01) and social support (
< 0.01) have a significant effect on life satisfaction.
Therefore, Hypothesis 1 and Hypothesis 2 were adopted. In other words, people
who have a lot of upward comparison with others and receive a lot of social sup-
port will have greater life satisfaction. To further examine the direct effects of the
variables, upward comparison with others (
= −0. 546,
< 0.01) and social sup-
< 0.01) all had a significant effect on self-esteem. Self-esteem
had a significant effect on life satisfaction (
< 0.01). These results in-
dicate that those who upward compare themselves a lot with others have lower
self-esteem; the more social support they have, the higher their self-esteem; and
the higher their self-esteem, the greater their life satisfaction.
Table 4. Hypothesis test results.
Upward Comparison ->
Social support ->
Upward comparison ->
Social support ->
Social support ->
DOI: 10.4236/ajc.2020.81001 9 Advances in Journalism and Communication
To further examine the direct effects of the variables, up-comparison with
< 0.01) and social support (
< 0.01) all had a
significant effect on self-esteem. Self-esteem also had a significant effect on life
< 0.01). These results indicate that those who compare
a lot with others have lower self-esteem, the more social support they have, the
higher their self-esteem, and the higher their self-esteem, the higher their satis-
faction with life.
Next, I examined the hypothesis test for the mediation path, that is, whether
self-esteem plays a mediating role in influencing life satisfaction with the inde-
pendent variables’ upward comparison with others and social support. For this, I
estimate the standard error of indirect effects using bootstrapping (Shrout &
Bolger, 2002). If the confidence interval for indirect values does not contain 0,
the indirect effects are considered to exist. The results are shown in Table 4 above.
As calculated, self-esteem mediated between upward comparison with others and
life satisfaction (
= −0.061, 95% Bias-corrected CI = −0.095 - −0.027); and be-
tween social support and life satisfaction (
In the relationship between Bias-corrected CI =0.018 - 0.079), both paths (Bi-
as-corrected CI = 0.018 - 0.079) did not have zero at the confidence interval which
implies there were mediating effects. Therefore, both Hypothesis 3 and Hypo-
thesis 4 were adopted. These results indicate that the higher the upward com-
parison with others, the lower the self-esteem, which leads to lower life satisfac-
tion; and the greater the social support, the higher the self-esteem which leads to
greater life satisfaction.
5. Conclusion and Discussion
This study investigated the effects of Facebook users’ self-esteem, social compar-
ison orientation, upward comparison with others and social support on life sa-
tisfaction. The research model was found to be plausible and the items of each
factor were found to have high reliability and validity. The effects of upward
comparison with others and social support on life satisfaction were all signifi-
cant. Therefore, both hypotheses 1 and 2 were supported, and these results showed
that life satisfaction is increased when Facebook users upward compare them-
selves with others and receive social support. Hypotheses 3 and 4 were also sup-
ported, i.e. upward comparison with others and social support would affect life
satisfaction mediated by self-esteem.
These results indicate that the more upward comparison with others, the low-
er the self-esteem, which leads to lower life satisfaction. And secondly, it can also
be concluded that the more social support users have will increase self-esteem
which leads to higher life satisfaction.
Hypothesis 1 found that upward comparison with others on Facebook will af-
fect life satisfaction. Taylor & Shelley (1993), Jang & Han (2004), Alicke, Lo-
Schiavo, Zerbst, & Zhang (1997), Lee (2014) and Yang et al. (2014) reported that
upward comparisons with others can cause negative emotions.
DOI: 10.4236/ajc.2020.81001 10 Advances in Journalism and Communication
In contrast Yang (2015) reported that upward comparisons with others can
have an uplifting effect on emotions, inspiring them to hope for the same level of
success if they try.
This conflicting view suggests that the results rather could be mediated or
controlled by a third factor rather than being unconditionally related to negative
emotions (Kim & Kim, 2012).
Hypothesis 2 was also supported, that is, social support affects life satisfaction.
And that greater social support received via Facebook leads to higher life satis-
faction. These results are consistent with the research of Kim (2015) and Oh,
Ozkaya & LaRose (2014), who reported that social support had a positive effect
on the subjective well-being of individuals.
Hypotheses 3 and 4 were also supported, i.e. more upward comparison with
others will lower the self-esteem, which leads to lower life satisfaction. And that
greater social support will increase self-esteem which leads to higher life satis-
faction. Other researchers suggest that an individual’s internal factors such as
self-esteem, perceived control over the situation, and dissatisfaction may affect
the relationship between the two variables (Buunk et al., 1990) and Mai-Ly et al.
(2014) pointed out a third variable in the use of Facebook could induce negative
emotions, suggesting the need to explore it. Likewise, Kim and Kim (2012) found
that the upward-comparison with others was not directly related to negative
emotions but could be mediated or controlled by a third factor. In addition, fur-
ther analyses of direct effects among the variables show that the lower the up-
ward comparison with others, the higher the self-esteem which leads to higher
life satisfaction; and that the greater the social support, the higher the self-esteem,
will lead to higher life satisfaction. In other words, higher self-esteem is related
to positive aspects such as personal happiness and life satisfaction, while lower
self-esteem is negative such as depression and antisocial behavior (Baumeister,
Campbell, Krueger, & Vohs, 2003; Donnellan, Trzesniewski, Robins, Moffitt, &
Mehdizadeh (2010) found that people with low self-esteem and a tendency for
grandiose narcissism would express themselves even more on SNS. Ellison et al.
(2007) found similar results with low self-esteem people who use SNS more fre-
quently to make up for their lack of offline social relationships.
The results and implications of this study are as follows:
First, this study has no representation bias because it collected data from a
sample of males and females in their twenties to fifties from five representative
Second, the validity test and reliability test confirm that the independent va-
riables affect life satisfaction of Facebook users.
Finally, this study deals with the tremendous increase in interest in under-
standing psychological variables arising from using social networks, especially
Facebook, based on our findings, I identified a need to understand third factors
which may act as mediating or control variables.
DOI: 10.4236/ajc.2020.81001 11 Advances in Journalism and Communication
Despite the above implications, this study has the following limitations:
First, most of the measurement items used in this study were drawn from for-
eign researchers in an environment unrelated to the use of SNS. Future studies
should develop and use measurement items suitable for the SNS environment
depending on the country being studied. Second, future studies will need to in-
corporate a broader range of independent, mediating and moderating variables
into the research model. It needs to integrate understanding of the psychological
effects from online communication via SNS.
Conflicts of Interest
The author declares no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this pa-
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