Social Media Woes: Facebook Depression

Posted by Emily Tozer

You’re having a bit of a bad day. You got an exam back with a big red D on the front, your phone died halfway through an important conversation and your hair looks like you walked through a wind tunnel. So you log onto Facebook to check out what your friends are up to. Statuses like, “Aced all my classes this semester! So glad my hard work paid off.” and, “Going out for dinner with the best boyfriend in the world <3” and photos of pretty, smiling friends  litter your news feed and it seems like everyone is having better days than you. Are you alone? No. Facebook-triggered depression is something that has been showing up in the news quite regularly.

American Academy of Pediatrics’ study of the the impact of social media on children, adolescents and families reported that the “intensity of the online world is thought to be a factor that may trigger depression.” Another study by Stanford University showed that Facebook users tend to underestimate their peers’ negative experiences and overestimate their happiness. Sound familiar?

Our instinct is to compare ourselves to others. But on social media sites like Facebook, we’re comparing ourselves with how those people are choosing to portray their lives. You do it too. Facebook allows us to self-promote, Jenn Berman, PhD. said in a Cosmopolitan article.

“You never see their desperate moments, so you assume they don’t have any, and you feel isolated and wonder why your life can’t be as easy and wonderful as theirs is.”

I’m sure you can think of an example. No? Log on to Facebook, scroll through your news feed and I guarantee you’ll find one. A girl you knew in high school posts a photo of her brand new convertible. Your older friend wrote a status about her fabulous promotion. A classmate shares a link to her internship, the internship you applied for and didn’t get. And it’s not a coincidence if your examples are all women. A study at the University of Texas reported that women use Facebook to share personal events while men are more likely to share links or current events.

I know I’ve done it. I untag photos of my self that I don’t like, I share links to my blog or published articles I’ve written or post a status about a recent accomplishment. Am I looking for praise? Not always. But it’s easy to make your life look “easy and wonderful” when you are the one deciding what to share and what not to share.

So what’s the solution? Is there a solution? We can’t stop others from sharing their good news, and good luck stopping yourself from logging on. Perhaps all we can do is try to remind ourselves that each one of our Facebook friends has bad days too (yes, even the girl with the new convertible).

Have you ever noticed yourself feeling bummed after spending time checking other people out on Facebook? Are you a self-promoter? What do you think about Facebook depression?

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7 responses to “Social Media Woes: Facebook Depression

  1. The articles you referenced are very thought-provoking. I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever become depressed because of seeing other people be so “happy” in their Facebook posts, but I’ve wondered if they’re actually as content as they appear. With social media, it’s so easy to skew people’s beliefs by putting up a facade like this, so I’m interested in reading more into this topic.

    When it comes to self-promotion, I’m guilty of it. I want to further my career in journalism, and, to an extent, creating a following on Facebook and Twitter is important in doing that. However, posting my most recent J91 blog isn’t (or shouldn’t be) sending someone into despondence. There’s a difference between the kinds of self-promotion in the messages you’re convening.

  2. Emily - Drake University

    I agree. There is a difference between posting cute pictures of yourself and posting a status about your job or a link to your blog. I think how the latter plays in to Facebook depression is related to comparing ourselves with those activities. If I see your blog, I may think, why aren’t I starting a blog? Should I be doing more to further my journalism career? Then I could come to the conclusion that I’m not going to succeed or not going to do as well as the person I’m seeing on Facebook. That’s a really short example, but do you get what I mean?

  3. Honestly, this happens to me all the time. I wouldn’t say I get depressed, but seeing photos from a friend’s bohemian hiatus in Paris can definitely make a bad day worse. I agree with what you wrote above, Emily: even on a good day, I’ll doubt how I measure up when I see someone on Facebook has an exciting internship or a job – I wonder, “Am I working hard enough? Should I write for another magazine so I can be as ‘good’ as the next person? What do they have that I don’t?”

    There’s no way to fix the posts themselves, but I think we can fix our own reactions. I agree that it’s a lot easier to promote yourself, especially on Facebook where it’s uncommon to read about people’s failures. People don’t usually post “I’m really embarrassed: I didn’t get that internship because they didn’t like my clips.” Keeping that in mind will help us avoid Facebook-induced depression.

  4. I’m going to get a little cheesy here, but you know that saying that goes “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” What we experience when we see a picture of a friend with their new convertible on Facebook is similar to seeing a person drive by in a convertible and wishing you had the financial ability to buy one. However, we have to remember that when we’re feeling down about one part of our life, another person is feeling down about a part of their life. (Yes, even the friend with the new convertible.) Facebook is about sharing and what is shared is up to the person sharing it. We have to realize that what we’re seeing is not this person’s whole life, only a part of it.

  5. Great post, Emily. This is a very interesting topic. It’s easy to take a part for the whole on social media sites, especially when all you see is a bright smile and a brand-new convertible. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have provided a virtual soapbox for people to stand on and shout, which makes it quite simple to create a page that casts a positive light on one’s life. However, it’s a pretty thin veil. No one’s life is perfect, no matter what their status says.

  6. Just to play devil’s advocate: Maybe it’s for the best that our social media friends post their accomplishments. Think about how despressing it would be to log in and find a stream of negative posts outlining how terrible everyone’s day went. And as many of you said, those positive posts do motivate us to work harder to reach goals(internship, job, test, etc.).

  7. I think everyone is guilty of self-promotion on social media. But, for me, I feel like it’s more of a motivation to go out and do more with my life. I see those awesome photos that my friends post from Study Abroad trips, and that makes me want to study abroad. So for me, it’s just a bit different. Plus, I like to see what awesome things people do on social media. When someone posts a link to her blog, I usually go to read it because I want to support her or give her feedback.

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