Facebook – A wonderful wasteland of pet videos, political posts, and grandmas mistaking their status bar as Google search. However what if I told you this sweet, sweet time waster was actually causing depressed feelings?
A 2015 article delves deeper into this issue while summarizing the work of UH researcher Mai-Ly Steers. Studies conducted by Steers showed a correlation between time spent on Facebook and signs of depressive symptoms in both males and females. However as we learned in class, correlation does not always mean causation. In this instance there could be a confounding variable. Steers study concluded that the depressive symptoms are linked to social comparisons made through social media. The more time on Facebook allowed users more opportunities to draw comparisons between their own lives and those of their friends. Social media sites are heavily filtered and only show a small fraction of an individual’s life, however for many people, especially those who are already emotionally distressed, comparisons drawn from this distorted viewpoint can have detrimental effects.
Social media isn’t all bad however. A study at Berkley University stresses that person-to-person communication on Facebook has shown to improve personal well-being. However the paper goes on and describes how other social media related activities that do not promote direct communication, such as Facebook’s News Feed decrease one’s well being due to comparisons being made. This thought directly coincides with the study conducted at the University of Houston.
In my own life I have witnessed both the positive and negative effects of Facebook. Social media sites, such as Facebook, have afforded me the opportunity to connect with my family members all around the country. I have cousins in Washington, California, Florida, and everywhere in between. By utilizing Facebook I am able to stay up-to-date with their daily lives. In the end I feel that this connection brings us closer together.
On the other hand, I have seen Facebook also have crippling effects on my friends’ self-confidence. If an updated profile picture doesn’t get enough likes, or they receive negative comments on their posts they often delete whatever they posted. The same mentality goes for other social media sites, such as Instagram. These events make them feel depleted and like they are not good enough, causing them to post things that are not true depictions of their actual life. Often their posts glorify their life, so when they are forced to return to their actual, less “glamorous” life they are discouraged and disengaged.
At the end of the day, I think Facebook’s benefits outweigh the negatives. However, as with everything in life, it has to be taken in moderation as to not interfere with one’s psychological well being. Overindulgence in Newsfeed browsing can lead one to draw comparisons, which can often cause symptoms that resemble depression. So go forth with your tending your Farmville pastures (if that’s even still a thing), and keep watching those hilarious videos of animals doing weird stuff, but just remember sometimes life online isn’t really life at all.