How social media envy can be a "motivator"

With billions of postings of vacations and food, social media sites are breeding grounds for envy. But is there actually a good side to experiencing that deadly sin?

There can be if it's the right kind of envy, according to Wall Street Journal contributor Jennifer Wallace.

"There's benign envy which is good envy and there's malicious envy which is the not-so-good envy," she said. "Malicious envy is, let's say a colleague gets promoted. Malicious envy would make you want to undercut that person so that you look better by comparison. Benign envy, though, is really a motivator. It can also untap ambitions we didn't know we had. We can often lie to ourselves or fool ourselves, but you can't fool your envy."

But it's natural to feel envy on social media because most people are posting their best version of themselves out there for others to see -- as we do in real life, Wallace said.

However there is an important distinction about online envy, Wallace noted.

"You know we feel envy online and offline, but what's interesting about Facebook and social media is that the people that we're networking with online are the very people we are most likely to envy, so we envy people most like us and the people that we're connected to are the people most like us," she said.

"We have 24-hour access to all kinds of envy triggers, right?" Wallace continued. "We used to be able to go home, shut ourselves in our rooms and relax. Now we're logging on and looking at vacation photos of trips we can't afford and job promotions that we're not getting."

For more on social media envy -- including discussion on the difference between envy and jealousy -- watch the video above. Read Wallace's full article on