- Mental Health
Facebook Can Make You Depressed
The Beginning of Facebook
The social networking site, Facebook, was initially modeled after a book given to college students at the beginning of each year to help students to get to know other students. Mark Zuckerberg and his cohorts (Andrew McCollum, Chris Hughes, Dustin Moskovitz, and Eduardo Saverin) began the site in 2004. First, it was used only at Harvard, but was expanded to other Boston colleges and finally worldwide. It is meant for individuals over the age of 13; however, there are millions of children younger than 13 with their own Facebook page.
People who use Facebook, use their real names to open their personal "wall." This helps people to find old friends, new friends, or family and reconnect. Individuals can "friend" people or join groups. Facebook allows an individual to post status updates, which means to write whatever you are thinking, feeling, doing, or going to do. It is a place to tell everyone you are "friends" with, what is on your mind or what is going on in your life. Facebook keeps track of birthdays, events, and special occasions and sends you a notice to remind you of events. you can add pictures to your page, or post sayings, cards, videos, or anything your heart desires. Games can be played on Facebook, as well as sending invitations to events. Also, Facebook can be used as an advertising tool for companies. There are many other features, and they are ever changing.
When seeing others' pictures, reading about others' accomplishments; vacations; or life, or when you haven't received responses to your posts, have you ever had a negative feeling or felt jealous?
How Facebook May Contribute to Depression
Facebook is a way to keep up with the lives of friends and family, as well as letting them know what is going on in your life. BUT...it can possibly contribute to symptoms of depression.
People who use Facebook tend to check the site on a daily basis; some check it many times throughout the entire day. Think about all of the times you have seen posts from friends saying they are "taking a break from Facebook." I am not saying these individuals are depressed, but to comment that they need a "break" from it is the equivalent of saying they are on it too much, it is taking up a significant portion of their life, or they are being negatively impacted somehow by being on Facebook.
If the only communication a person has in life is making random posts on Facebook and waiting for someone to respond, or reading others' posts and/or commenting, then the person is socially isolated. This creates loneliness, which is a contributor to depression. Additionally, living vicariously through Facebook and "friends" can demonstrate a lack of interest in participating in real activities.
There are individuals who will explore Facebook all night, reading "friend's" posts, looking at pictures, exploring pages, and playing games. These people are not allowing themselves to sleep and may use Facebook to avoid sleep. Conversely, an individual simply may not be able to sleep and use Facebook as an escape and further their inability to sleep. Lack of sleep, whether by choice or not, can lead to or increase depression.
Reading others' posts can be entertaining. The posts can bring up a variety of feelings and responses. However, if people see beautiful pictures of old classmates, they may feel worse about how they look. Seeing that others have achieved certain things, gone on expensive vacations, got hired for a great job, met a new love interest, etc. can bring out the green-eyed monster. They can become jealous about just about anything. People are constantly inundated with the wonderful things happening in the lives of others, and for those who do not have positive things going on in their lives, this can lower self-esteem. They may start believing their life is bad or that they are a bad person. They may feel stupid or worthless. They may start feeling sorry for themselves and experience helplessness. Even hating one's own life or self may occur.
When a person posts something on his/her wall status and no one responds, he/she may feel like no one cares. Then seeing other "friends" posting more on someone else's status can increase feelings of loneliness and exclusion.
Negatives on Facebook
Daily on Facebook, there are millions of negative comments. Some may be meant as negative, some may be an opinion that you do not agree with, and some may simply be an irritant to someone personally. Reading posts that are obviously a cry out for attention, opposing political opinions, consistent bragging, Facebook stalkers, and cyber bullying can all affect an individual's mood. They can cause reactions such as embarrassment, irritability, and anger.
Bullying is reported to be a problem on the internet. It affects individuals of all ages, especially our youth. People are free to post whatever they want on their page and use curse words. Imagine...if adults can be affected by others' statements, whether political or just irritating comments, how is it affecting our children, especially those who are violating Facebook policy of being younger than 13-years-old.
Facebook stalkers are out there. They are people who see someone on a "friend's" Facebook site and try to friend them. I know one who has used the fact that we went to the same high school, although at completely different years, to "friend" me. Come to find out, he had two previous arrests for sexual assault. This situation is a stressor, especially when it is to this extreme. Additionally, there are women/men who say, "Hey, I am single" and then an online relationship starts. Eventually, the unknowing person has nasty things written all over their wall for the world to see from the other's spouse. This can harm the way a person views him- or herself and create a worry about how other's view him/her after making this bad (but innocent) choice and after the nasty posts.
Each of these situations can contribute to depression.
Symptoms of Depression
Depression is made up of a particular set of criteria. There must be either depressed mood most days of the week or a loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy participating in. Then there are four more symptoms necessary from the following list:
- significant weight loss or gain
- insomnia or sleeping too long
- feeling restless or slowed down (must be obvious to others)
- feeling worthless or guilty
- problems with concentration or indecisiveness
- recurrent suicidal thoughts or actions
*These symptoms must occur more days of the week than not, impair functioning in social; occupational; or other areas of life, and not the effect of drug; alcohol; medication; or grief.
Books about Depression
If You Are Feeling Sad
If you notice you are feeling any of these things on Facebook or in any part of your life, please take the step to see a counselor or psychologist. Other suggestions:
- Get off the computer when you can.
- Remember that people post things on Facebook primarily because they want to share their lives. Maybe delete "friends" who make you feel bad about yourself.
- Get out of the house!
- Socialize more in-person
- Get a prescription medication
- Eat healthy
- Improve problems-solving and coping skills
- Improve social support
- Do something to improve self-esteem
- Sleep approximately 7-8 hours a night