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Facebook Use Linked to Depression

April 9, 2015

Facebook use triggers an intense desire to compare ourselves to other people, potentially leading to people feeling depressed when they feel they don’t measure up. Pretty standard formula of: compare myself to others and feel like a failure:

Steers conducted two studies to investigate how social comparison to peers on Facebook might impact users’ psychological health. Both studies provide evidence that Facebook users felt depressed when comparing themselves to others.

“It doesn’t mean Facebook causes depression, but that depressed feelings and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand in hand,” said Steers.

The first study found an association between time spent on Facebook and depressive symptoms for both genders. However, the results demonstrated that making Facebook social comparisons mediated the link between time spent on Facebook and depressive symptoms for men only. Similarly, the second study found a relationship between the amount of time spent on Facebook and depressive symptoms was mediated by social comparisons on Facebook. Unlike the first study, gender did not moderate these associations.

The concept of social comparison is not new. In fact, it has been studied in face-to-face contexts since the 1950’s. However, engaging in social comparisons on online social media sites may make people feel even worse.

I have not participated in Facebook, because I think they steal social data, but also because it constantly seems like a case of one-up-manship. There is nothing really of consequence written on Facebook, just a lot of pictures and discussions of everything people want to do, or a form of seeking social affirmation. I have people routinely ask if I read their Facebook posts. I don’t. It’s too easy for people to just set up a reading list, for Facebook to be a social to-do list, with people throwing tantrums if others don’t respond, opening the doorway to hurt feelings. It’s like emotional vomit, all over the place, no control, and then then marketing groups use it to make money.

I know that some of the most socially disadvantaged love to use Facebook, but then fights break out. And people seem upset after viewing pictures from Facebook. So, is it just a small issue? Nope, researchers who participated in the study hope to issue warnings for those at-risk for depression to let them know that Facebook use can have a destructive side:

This research and previous research indicates the act of socially comparing oneself to others is related to long-term destructive emotions. Any benefit gained from making social comparisons is temporary and engaging in frequent social comparison of any kind may be linked to lower well-being,” said Steers.

Steers hopes the results of these studies will help people understand that technological advances often possess both intended and unintended consequences. Further, she hopes her research will help guide future interventions that target the reduction of Facebook use among those at risk for depression.

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