Connected and Depressed?

Most of us have one.  That oh-so-wonderful account that keeps us connected to our friends and family and gives us a look into the lives of those closest to us – and sometimes of those not so close to us.  You probably know what I’m talking about: the shining social media site named Facebook.

Facebook does many wonderful things.  It allows us to conveniently keep in touch with family or friends who are far away.  We can share our photos, update our statuses, and chat with our friends all we want.  We can even “Facebook stalk” people to get more information about them, providing their security settings allow us to.  Yes, Facebook obviously has mass appeal with its one billion (and climbing) users.  But is Facebook really all its cracked out to be?  Sure, it has plenty of benefits, but not everything Facebook can do is good for you.

I’m sure this comes as no shock to you.  After all, I think many of us agree that Facebook – and social media in general – is not always beneficial, but now research is beginning to reveal even more of the dangers of social media.  Within the past two years, studies have begun to suggest that Facebook can actually cause depression in teens.  Researchers have even coined the term “Facebook depression” as a result of their studies, which suggests that maybe it’s a bigger issue than we realize (Sloviter).

There’s a lot of debate on the issue still.  After all, with so many different factors affecting depression, it can be hard to determine what causes it and what doesn’t.  Nevertheless, more and more people are becoming convinced that Facebook does in fact contribute to depression.  But why?

Well, the answer is quite simple really:  Facebook often provides a skewed view of reality.  For the most part, Facebook users post only the best things.  A picture of good times with friends here, an inspiring post about family there…  You know the drill.  Very few of us are interested in airing our dirty laundry on the site, so we avoid posting those things that may not be as pretty.  So, all of our Facebook friends get this idea that our life is good, maybe even that it’s always good.  Add those “in-your-face friends’ tallies,” and it’s easy to see how someone could start feeling bad about their own imperfect reality (Tanner).

Now, if you’re a Facebook user and you’re beginning to feel concerned, it may not be time for you to delete your account just yet.  Most studies pointing to Facebook depression have found that it’s most common in teenagers who are “obsessed” with the site, and that the majority of these teens already had bad self-esteem before joining.  For a teen who already feels bad about themselves, seeing friends’ status updates and cheery photos can “be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters” (Tanner).

So what does this mean, then?  Should teens stop using Facebook?  Should those with low self-esteem be restricted in their Facebook usage?  Not necessarily.  However, it is important for all of us to understand that “the way [we] feel about what [we] see on social media is based on how [we] feel about [our]selves” and for us to be aware of the feelings we have prior to and when using social media (Wiedemann).  Parents of teens should be aware of Facebook and all its benefits and dangers.  And, perhaps most importantly, every one of us – teen or not – should realize that it’s okay to “unplug” from social media.  If you find you’re getting upset or starting to feel bad about your life, it might be time to log off the Internet and enjoy your own life, with all of its beauty and all of its imperfections.

Sources

Sloviter, Vikki.  “Diagnosis: Social Media Syndrome.”  Pediatrics for Parents 27.5 (2011): 30-1. ProQuest. Web. 4 March 2014.

Tanner, Lindsey.  “Docs warn about teens and ‘Facebook depression.’”  The Associated Press.  NBC News.  29 March 2011, n.p.  Web.  3 March 2014.

Wiedemann, Katie.  “New Study Suggests Link Between Facebook and Depression.”  KCRG.com.  Cedar Rapids Television Company.  7. Nov, 2013, n.p.  Web.  4 March 2014.

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