Unveiling Shadows: Exploring The Dark Side of Social Media in the Workplace

Blogpost written by Papa Yaw Forson and Cahit Calasin

Key Points:

  • Employees who use social media platforms could be vulnerable to online social comparison.
  • The drawbacks of social media use were examined in relation to online social comparison.
  • Using social media to engage in online social comparison may have a detrimental effect on workers‘ productivity.

Social media has integrated itself into our everyday lives in the age of digital interaction, impacting the way we share information and communicate. But social media’s influence is not limited to our private lives; it also has an impact on the workplace, causing concerns about its place there as well. Huang and Fan (2022) issued a research paper that explores this fascinating topic by examining „The Dark Side of Social Media in the Workplace“ from the standpoint of social comparison.

Source: CareerAddict. (n.d.). Negative Effects of Social Media in the Workplace

First and foremost, we have to give the social media it’s flowers for the enormous benefits companies have had using it in the working place. Social media has improved communication, branding, productivity, advertisement, etc. and the list goes on. But as stated earlier, online social comparison among employees can have a negative consequences of their psychological well-being and work behaviour and this is the focus of our blogpost.

Online Social Media Comparison

People evaluate their own social and personal value by comparing themselves to other people. This can be seen in the workplace on social media, where staff members frequently post snippets of their career successes, life events, and even difficulties at work. The effects of these social comparisons on workplace dynamics and employee well-being are examined in Huang and Fan’s research. Here is link to the research paper, Click Here.  An example of how online social comparison can affect, A PhD candidate whose research paper has not been published may feel intimidated after seeing on his friend’s social media profile, who is also a PhD candidate, that this friend’s paper has been published in a notable journal. Online social comparison is an extension of the traditional social comparison in the context of social media. Nevertheless, individuals would always want to portray positive information about their work achievements and journeys on their social media profile. So, who is to be blamed? The people who decide to share their milestones or people who are offended by what they see?

The Catalyst: Ego-Depletion

When employees compare themselves to others on social media, it can make them feel drained and affect how well they do their job. This feeling of being drained is called ego-depletion, and it’s like a link between online social comparison and job performance. In simple terms, comparing on social media changes how employees feel and think (the first part), which then leads to a temporary drop in their ability to do well at work (the next part). So, it’s like a chain reaction – social media comparisons impact how we feel and think, and that, in turn, affects how we do our job.

Source: Verywell Mind. (n.d.). Ego Depletion: What It Is and Why It Happens. Verywell Mind

What to do next?

The research sheds light on the negative aspects of social media use at work but also provides useful information for potential solutions. Promoting an environment of openness and honesty in the workplace can assist staff members in communicating their struggles and accomplishments more truthfully, both online and off as well. Companies should also think about putting in place social media policies that encourage appropriate usage and forbid overzealous self-promotion. Furthermore, encouraging a supportive and welcoming work environment can lessen the negative effects of social comparison by fostering a sense of unity and mutual success.

Take home

Social media undoubtedly has many benefits at the workplace. However, from the lens of online social comparison, information on social media among employees leads to online social comparison which subsequently leads to negative emotions and psychological states of employees depending on their level of ego-depletion, which again leads to poor job performance. Managers and employees can mitigate this problem by knowing the rational use of social media, being particular about what information to consume and lastly creating an atmosphere for employees to feel appreciated.



CareerAddict. (n.d.). Negative Effects of Social Media in the Workplace. CareerAddict. https://www.careeraddict.com/negative-effects-of-social-media-in-the-workplace.

Huang, X., & Fan, P. (2022). The dark side of social media in the workplace: A social comparison perspective. Computers in Human Behaviour, 127, Article 107377. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2022.107377 .

Verywell Mind. (n.d.). Ego Depletion: What It Is and Why It Happens. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/ego-depletion-4175496 .

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