An Outbreak of Facebook DepressionBy: Shawn Hess - January 31, 2012
According to recent research, some people are becoming depressed after using Facebook. If you can’t understand this, maybe you don’t have Facebook. I have always found it depressing. Where else can you have 500 friends and still feel like nobody really knows who you are.
And where else but Facebook can you go to see constant updates on what everyone is doing all the time. Status update: i’m taking out the trash. Status update: going to grandma’s house. Status update: Stacy’s coming over for soup…so excited! Seems depressing to me.
Utah Valley University conducted research last year which indicated that people are becoming depressed after viewing Facebook, and not because they find stays updates monotonous like I do. A sample of 425 undergraduate students was surveyed and for those who spent the most amount of time on Facebook, depression was more likely. Why?
Those student perceived that others were happier and had a better life than they do. This phenomenon is known as “Facebook depression”.
A sixteen year old high school comments on the phenomenon:
“If you really didn’t have that many friends and weren’t really doing much with your life, and saw other peoples’ status updates and pictures and what they were doing with friends, I could see how that would make them upset”
She also pointed out:
“It’s like a big popularity contest — who can get the most friend requests or get the most pictures tagged”
There is a lot of debate around the subject of Facebook depression. A key argument is whether it is a symptom of an existing underlying depression or if it is the cause of depression itself.
A good way for parents of children with Facebook depression to view the phenomenon is to realize that Facebook represents a gigantic scoreboard for how their child is doing socially. If self- esteem is low and your child is not very social, Facebook can facilitate depression and a feeling of disconnectedness.
Conversely, if your child is very social and has a lot of connections, Facebook enhances self-esteem and the feeling of being connected. It has a facilitative effects overall. If we constantly remind ourselves that everyone around us is doing better, we will never get in the game and get engaged in what we care about. Also note that this is just a general guideline- not a rule by any means.
Several of the articles I read while preparing this piece compared Facebook Depression to “sitting alone in the high school cafeteria”. So it’s about comparison. Why aren’t I like them? Why doesn’t anybody want to sit with me? Why doesn’t anybody care about me? They have 20 people at their table, I have 2. What’s wrong with me?
But does it stop after high school or college? I haven’t come across the adult research for Facebook Depression but there are several articles out there from people in their 30’s and 40’s who are claiming they have Facebook depression.
This should come as no surprise to anyone. A major need of humans in general, regardless of who you are, is a need to feel connected to others and experience a sense of belonging. This is not B.S., If you are socially isolated, you are bound to be depressed. So the scoreboard theory of Facebook just being a constant reminder is going to be the same for adults.
It feels good to have friends that care about you whether they’re are just casual Facebook friends or real physical companions. We never outgrow these needs, in fact, as you reach retirement age and leave your position in the organization you work for, these belonging need will come full circle from adolescence.
I can’t wait to see the research on how seniors are using Facebook. I know that retirement can be lonely for a lot of people . With limited mobility and budgets, social networking like Facebook could be a lifeline to good social health. Of course we know that some seniors can be more brutal than any adolescent! Should be interesting!