Since social media became more popular among people, there have been studies looking into any potential side effects of long-term use. Is there a link between depression and using Facebook?
There are a lot of differing opinions on what social media can do to someone. This is becoming particularly evident now that people can be constantly connected. Many people use Facebook as a means of communication only, but many others use it as a place to put their ‘highlight reel’.
What people are now seeing is what is called FOMO – a Fear Of Missing Out – and it is almost entirely due to social media. Many people now get Facebook as a way of keeping up with other people.
So why does using Facebook trigger the symptoms of depression?
1. Facebook leads to comparisons
Since Facebook now allows us to post videos and pictures, more and more people are sharing their days online in the visual format. Whether it is their deluxe hotel room, the sparkling beach, or a picture they just painted, it all goes up.
Facebook is, in its latest incarnations, designed to work with this. Unfortunately, there is a dividing line between people who use it as an everyday update service and those who use it as a means of sharing special events. This is another root of the so-called ‘Facebook depression‘. Too many people see the sharing of special moments as a normal life. This leads them to question why their own life is not so seemingly perfect and special at all times. This, in turn, can lead to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.
Don’t live your whole life according to someone else’s highlight reel. It never ends well.
2. Facebook is difficult to differentiate from real life
The rise of reality TV is making it difficult to differentiate between reality and acting. This is leading to a lot of depression because people see Facebook as an accurate depiction of somebody’s life.
We are all familiar with the adage ‘the grass is always greener’. Facebook makes that a reality – we see other people’s life, and the format of social media makes them look glossy and aspirational. Facebook is very good at making the ordinary look remarkable.
This then has a detrimental effect on people who try to emulate what they see, without any regard for if it works within the context of their own lives.
3. Facebook has changed our aspirations
Depression is often caused, in no small measure, by aspirations. We should all aspire to something, make no mistake, but social media, in general, has changed the way we see the world.
Social media, including Facebook, has changed how we see our future. Before we had these communication methods, we focused on how our aspirations would help us to reach our own goals. Our own future was what had in mind, even if there was still an element of keeping up with other people.
Now, we focus more of our energies on trying to keep up with other people, or what we see of them on social media. This can present a problem just because of how different people are – what works for one person won’t for another.
This leads to depression because people using Facebook aspire to be like others, particularly celebrities and other famous personalities that they see. Some lifestyles just don’t work if you aren’t famous or known.
4. Facebook is a time vacuum
Facebook – just like lots of other online sites – is very time-consuming. Nobody means to spend hours scrolling through their social media feeds, but for some reason, it always happens.
This can lead to an unusual case of depression when it comes time to unplug from Facebook and actually put the phone down. People like to know what their friends and family are up to, but Facebook can take it to an extreme.
Lots of people gain an attachment to their phones – we have all witnessed families and dates who are both glued to their phones throughout a meal. Having to go without it for any length of time can become distressing, and lead to depression.
5. Facebook leads to a need for validation
Social media has led to a huge rise in people who seek outside validation. There have always been people like this, but Facebook, and Instagram in particular, have made them visible to a wider public.
Think of Instagram models, people who put flags on their profiles for solidarity, and the concept of ‘vague-booking’. While Instagram celebrity is not always done for selfish reasons, it has been co-opted by a lot of people who need attention.
People look to others for validation – it’s completely natural. Where it becomes a problem is where people rely on it totally. Being unable to attain the level of validation they want leaves many Facebook users suffering from depression.
Social media is a very useful tool, but that is all it is. People who suffer from Facebook depression have forgotten that the online space is not the same as the offline space. Offline is more important, and it can offer more concrete feelings and connections.
Social media is free, however, and because of the way it is set up, it can lead people to connecting with more people than they would ever be able to offline. This can lead to a false sense of connection and importance on their parts. These then lead to feelings of depression and insecurity when people are deprived of their fix.
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