Social Media and Depression: Everyone’s Life Seems Better Than Yours?
Social media status updates are part of our daily lives. At first, people posted all sorts of different statements about themselves. Just look at Facebook posts pre-2010 if you have some free time! But over time, a specific style of presenting yourself on social media evolved. This style has been described as ‘curating yourself’, as if you were creating an exhibition of self-portraits. You post your successes and put the best possible spin on your social media image. Perhaps you even slightly exaggerate. And you leave out what you don’t want others to know. It’s a new form of the suburban ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, affecting all ages and income groups.
Writing and reading
Maybe it makes you feel better to show the world your best side, the person you would like to be rather than the person you really are. But what about reading other people’s updates?
Do you sometimes feel as if everyone’s life is better than yours? As if everyone is connecting and succeeding and enjoying themselves? Does social media look like a party you haven’t been invited to?
How does this affect you, particularly on a bad day?
Social Media Depression – a clinical study
In early 2016 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a report on the effect of social media on the mental health and well-being of young users.
The report suggests that social media can become a negative influence if their focus on popularity becomes too strong. Lack of popularity and social exclusion online can lead to what the AAP calls ‘Facebook depression’.
However, this study has also been criticized for incorrect scientific methods and negative interpretation bias.
Wherever you look, everyone seems to have a better life than you. Open social media on a Monday morning, and everyone has a new achievement, a better job, and a new partner – or is getting married to their wonderful partner.
While you only have an ordinary work week to look forward to.
No wonder you feel left behind. No wonder you feel stressed and anxious. And perhaps a little down on yourself.
Like me or not
We all need to be accepted. We all want to be loved.
And social media pushes that button.
Getting a lot of likes evokes a primal response in us. The acceptance of the herd. In our tribal society past, that meant safety, food and social contact. Thus, we create posts that will generate this response.
But we all know the unpleasant feeling when nobody ‘likes’ a post.
Another primal response sets in. We are alone, without friends. We may have been abandoned. In our tribal society past, that meant hardship, and possibly death. So, every time we are ignored on social media, we die a little inside.
If it happens many times, it can trigger depression.
Instant self-worth measurements
If you are at all vulnerable to outside valuations of your self-worth, social media can cause you to wobble a lot.
Likes, followers, being friended and unfriended, positive and negative comments may all impact our feelings of self-worth.
It takes a lot of inner strength and core values to counteract this effect.
Low self-worth, of course, is one of the major symptoms of depression.
Understand the unrealistic world view of social media
It is easy to forget that social media isn’t an accurate portrayal of the real world.
They are, instead, a gallery of photo shopped selfies. A series of self-promoting commercials. Think of Facebook as a store front where we try to sell ourselves.
But those are not real connections
Connect with ‘real life’
Luckily, real life is still available, everywhere around you. The more real connections you make, the easier it is to distinguish between genuine contact and self-promotion.
Connect with reality on social media
On the other hand, social media are what you make of them.
It is up to you to change the nature of your own posts. Make them more real. Share a more complex account of your life. Engage others instead of joining the on-going series of constant monologues.
Your next post is probably only a few hours away.
Here is your chance to be pro-active (an anti-dote to depression!) and create the change you want to see.