The word envy comes from the Latin invidere, literally to "cast an evil eye." The same root gives us the word invidious. In evolutionary terms, being envious of someone else could be explained as nature's way of encouraging us to study the traits and habits of other, more successful people, which could contribute to our own success, as well. I think envy explains at least some of the emotional motivation people have for competing. Whether it's earning a bigger bonus than your colleagues, or showing off your new iPad, or winning a round of Words With Friends, it's clear that we human beings are not just social animals -- we're exuberantly competitive, as well.
And one of the interesting things about social media technology is that it is probably super-charging not just our social natures, but also our competitive drive. This "envy effect" is the topic of my latest post on Fast Company's web site.
Basically, what I suggest there is that our increasing interconnectedness makes it easier and easier to compare our own status, performance, or satisfaction with other people. So, whether it's competing to have the most Twitter followers or the most interesting posts on Facebook, social media most likely has a strong "envy effect."
I wonder what an increased level of envy, jealousy, competition or rivalry might mean for the state of customer service. Ideas, anyone?