Ongoing Research Projects


Ongoing Projects


Participation in social networks, such as Facebook, can cause negative feelings and reduce members’ life satisfaction. Those are the results of a study conducted by Information Systems scientists at the TU Darmstadt and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

In a two-stage study conducted by the Department of Information Systems of the TU Darmstadt (Prof. Dr. Peter Buxmann) and the Institute of Information Systems of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Dr. Hanna Krasnova), Facebook members were surveyed regarding their feelings after using the platform. More than one-third of respondents in the initial study with over 300 users reported predominantly negative feelings, such as frustration. The researchers identified that envying their “Facebook friends” is the major reason for this result. Project manager Dr. Hanna Krasnova, who is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Humboldt-Universität, explained that, “Although respondents were reluctant to admit feeling envious while on Facebook, they often presumed that envy can be the cause behind the frustration of “others” on this platform - a clear indication that envy is a salient phenomenon in the Facebook context. Indeed, access to copious positive news and the profiles of seemingly successful ‘friends’ fosters social comparison that can readily provoke envy. By and large, online social networks allow users unprecedented access to information on relevant others - insights that would be much more difficult to obtain offline.” Those who do not engage in any active, interpersonal communications on social networks and primarily utilize them as sources of information, e.g. reading friends’ postings, checking news feeds, or browsing through photos, are particularly subject to these painful experiences.

Envying Facebook friends leads to a vicious “envy spiral”

Another result of the survey was that about one-fifth of all recent online/offline events that had provoked envy among the respondents took place within a Facebook context. This reveals a colossal role of this platform in users’ emotional life. Paradoxically, envy can frequently lead to users embellishing their Facebook profiles, which, in turn, provokes envy among other users, a phenomenon that the researchers have termed “envy spiral.”

The leading online and offline envy provokers in Germany are related to “Travel and Leisure”. As Dr. Thomas Widjaja of the TU‑Darmstadt, who was also involved in the project, put it, “This is a result of numerous vacation photos posted on Facebook, which are particularly popular among German users.”

Facebook envy fosters dissatisfaction

Based on the follow-up survey with more than 200 Facebook users, the researchers were also able to establish a negative link between the envy that arises while on Facebook and users’ general life satisfaction. Indeed, passive use of Facebook heightens invidious emotions that, in turn, adversely affect users’ satisfaction with their lives. Coauthor Helena Wenninger of the TU-Darmstadt argued that, “Considering the fact that Facebook use is a worldwide phenomenon and envy is a universal feeling, a lot of people are subject to these painful consequences.”

The results of the survey will be presented at the “11th International Conference Wirtschaftsinformatik (Information Systems)” to be held in Leipzig, Germany, February 27 through March 1, 2013. The researchers plan to conduct a follow-on survey that will explore the effects of Facebook use on envy and its consequences within various cultures.

Reference: Krasnova, H., Wenninger, H., Widjaja, T., Buxmann, P. (2013) “Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users’ Life Satisfaction?”, 11th International Conference on Wirtschaftsinformatik (WI), Leipzig, Germany. In press. Available HERE.

More information about this project is available here:

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Role of Privacy Concerns in Accepting Application Permissions. Are users privacy egoistic?

In 2007 Facebook has opened its platform to third-party application developers. While this step has helped Facebook keep its competitive edge, privacy concerns surrounding applications are mounting. While users rely on privacy settings to limit accessibility of their information to unwanted others, applications can circumvent this barrier. By giving an app a “permission”, users endanger not only privacy of their own, but of their friends. Despite potential privacy threats, the adoption of Facebook apps is on the rise. As a result, there is a pressing need to understand the rationale behind decisions on application permissions as well as the role of privacy concerns in this process. Taking into account that existing research offers only limited findings, this study builds on the responses of 199 Facebook users to gain an in-depth understanding of these research questions. Among others, we find that users are affected by the magnitude of information request in a “permission” request, even though it can be weakened by peer influence. Furthermore, users tend to be particularly cautious when granting access to information of their friends, which rejects the hypothesis of ‘privacy egoism’. Our findings are of relevance for page providers who seek to increase user engagement via apps.

Involved Researchers: Hanna Krasnova, Nicole Eling, Oleg Schneider, Helena Wenninger, Thomas Widjaja, Peter Buxmann


What drives men and women to stay on social networking sites? Gender differences in determinants of user loyalty.

Low entry barriers and growing competition make issues of user loyalty critical for any Social Networking Site (SNS). To address this concern, multiple studies explore the determinants of user participation, continuance intention and loyalty on these platforms. In most of these studies, however, SNS users are treated as a homogeneous entity with potential group differences being ignored. At the same time, increasing diversity of SNSs audiences challenges generalizability of these findings, with providers looking for ways to address concerns of different user segments. Acknowledging this pressing need, this study focuses on investigating gender differences in the determinants of user loyalty on Facebook. Anecdotal evidence provides sound ground to conclude that men and women exhibit different uses of SNSs. Moreover, gender marker is one of the easiest for providers to identify, which makes gender-based targeting to a natural building block of sustainability strategy for any SNS provider. Building on a comprehensive review of 27 studies focusing on determinants of SNS use and 44 studies touching upon gender differences on SNSs, we formulate a model of user loyalty on SNSs. Specifically, we explore gender differences in the motivational strength of eight factors - relational benefits, self-enhancement, informational and networking benefits, emotional support, benefits of offline participation, and privacy concerns about organizational and social threats - on user loyalty on Facebook. Our hypotheses are tested using Structural Equation Modeling and Multi-Group Analysis methodologies with a sample of 875 Facebook users. Together our study represents the first attempt to systematically study gender differences in motivations to use SNSs. Our findings offer a plethora of theoretical and managerial implications.

Involved Researchers: Hanna Krasnova, Natasha Veltri, Heng Xu


Since the emergence of the Internet, privacy concerns have been a frequent subject on the agenda. The reasons include unmatched possibilities to collect, aggregate and analyze data traces users leave behind. In addition, the proliferation of Social Media platforms, such as Facebook, has resulted in a surge of user sharing activity. Considering the severity of privacy threats these developments bring along, policy-makers around the world are searching for viable solutions to address these problems. However, finding effective legal means in this area has proved to be a formidable challenge. Contributing to this debate, this study builds on the responses of 553 Internet users to uncover users’ privacy concerns and their attitudes towards legal assurances. We find that users have a complex attitude towards these issues. While users tend to express strong concerns about privacy when asked directly, they often have difficulties formulating the exact nature of these concerns, often lamenting general data misuse. In the Facebook context, Facebook itself is often mentioned as the primary source of threat, closely followed by marketing organizations. Users feel ill-protected by existing legal framework, especially when using Social Networking Sites. Reasons include common beliefs that the law is unable to address complexities of the Internet; local character of laws; possibilities to disregard the law, particularly since enforcement is difficult. Overall, positive changes in legal framework are desirable, with many respondents willing to pay more in taxes to ensure progress in this area.

Involved Researchers: Hanna Krasnova, Paula Kift

Supported by: Alexander von Humboldt Institut für Internet und Gesellschaft (HIIG)

More about this study: Privacy Report