Does seeing how many friends, likes and comments a friend has on their social media sites get you down? Surfing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and seeing your friends’ engagements, babies, trips, losses, jobs, via pictures and status updates can cause an overwhelming swirl of emotions. Often people report experiencing sadness looking at the ups and downs of others’ lives, and this term is getting called “Social Media Depression.” Though it lacks legitimacy in the DSM, research does support a connection between depression and social media use.
Investigators report that teens are more influenced by social media than adults. Teens’ sensitivity may lie in the fact that the quantity of friends and social capital one has at this age are very important. Following someone on Twitter that does not follow you back or comparing your number of “friends” or “followers” to that of your peers may cause a young person to question their esteem and worth. However, self-esteem issues and preexisting depressive thoughts also contribute to over use of social media.
A study by Wilson, et al revealed that, as a group, the personality and self-esteem factors significantly predicted both level of social-networking-site use and addictive tendency.
An analysis of a group of studies by Jordan, et al reveals that people who downplay their loneliness and negative emotions online contribute to feelings of isolation. Because people are more likely to project a positive image online, it becomes natural to underestimate everyone else’s negative feelings. Ultimately, this makes it harder for social media users to relate or believe others are experiencing similar emotional hardships.
As with anything, the best advice is to use social media in moderation. Further more, if you begin thinking negatively – that others’ lives are more exciting or happy than yours – its important to remind yourself of some realistic adaptive positives.
An important ratio is 5:1. For every one negative comment you make about your self or comparison you make about your life to others you should identify 5 positive alternative thoughts about yourself or situation.
Lastly, surf social media sites armed with the knowledge that oftentimes the positive images that people project online are exaggerated, and that those people may be simply downplaying any negative feelings or situations in their lives on their social sites, just like you.
Social media does have some positives when used responsibly. When people feel connected to others they actually report improved self esteem. However, if you feel that social media is taking a toll on your mental health and contributing to a sense of hopelessness, worthlessness, anxiety or depression you should not feel afraid to discuss with a trained mental health professional. You can speak with a therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic by calling (248) 646-6659 or visiting www.birminghammaple.com
What kind of impact has social media made on your life? Does it improve your self-esteem, or hurt it? What do you do to keep social media depression at bay? Tweet @birminghammaple, or comment below and in our Facebook.
Jordan, Alexander et al. “Misery Has More Company Than People Think: Underestimating the Prevalence of Others’ Negative Emotions.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2011. (April 8, 2011)
Wilson, Kathryn; Stephanie Fornasier, and Katherine M. White. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. April 2010, 13(2): 173-177.