Anyone who has even found themselves lurking on Facebook at one in the morning knows that it doesn’t do much for enhancing their mood! In fact, the more time you spend on Facebook, the worse you are likely to feel!
One Australian study found that people feel pretty crummy any time they’re on Facebook for too long. What’s more, these findings add to a growing body of research suggesting that Facebook can increase feelings of depression, loneliness and jealousy.
So, if you feel dissatisfied with your life, or struggle with depression, here are some of the ways that Facebook can make you feel worse about yourself:
Someone I know takes frequent sabbaticals from Facebook because it makes her feel like life is passing her by. Naturally, her news feed rife with everyone else getting married and having kids, while she remains single and childless, prompting her to feel negatively about herself.
Indeed, logging onto Facebook, you are instantly bombarded with of images of people having fun, being in love, having families, buying homes, being successful, or generally enjoying their lives more than you are. This comparison trap is hard to resist, in which we evaluate ourselves unflatteringly compared to other people’s supposedly more interesting and attractive lives, filling our minds with negative self-assessments.
Fantasy vs. reality
What people post on Facebook rarely shows the full story. That friend with the fabulous new home, but in reality, they might be bogged down with crippling debt. Or that woman you sit next to at church boasting about her blissful marriage, but is actually in couples therapy, clinging onto the last vestiges of failing relationship.
In my experience, most Facebook users only post things of a positive nature, which isn’t all bad, but we get into trouble when we accept people’s status updates at face value. We assume that the person has their life altogether, and are ecstatically happy, having made it in life, while we continue to feel second class.
Having grown up in the United Kingdom, it is easy to converse with my London friends via Facebook, yet it frequently reminds me of the distance between us. Closing my laptop, I routinely feel sad and homesick, despite the fact that I have close friends and family where I live now.
It is not surprising then that staring alone at a screen, reading about other people’s lives, while waiting for someone to comment on your posts, can trigger a sense of loneliness and isolation. Even if you’re using IM or are an active member of a group, the people who you are interacting with are flesh and blood, but not in your presence. Despite the number of 'friends' you have, it can be a reminder of the lack of closeness and connection in your life, whether real or perceived.
A numbers game
How many Facebook ‘friends’ do you have? How many people liked your picture, or commented on your witty status update? How many people wished you a happy birthday? Facebook is a numbers game for many people, getting their sense of validation from the number of friends they have (even if they met the person once), or receiving multiple likes on the amuzing cat video they just posted. These arbitrary numbers don’t mix well if you are feeling vulnerable or depressed!
Even so, Facebook as many great attributes. For me, I like the ease it offers for staying in touch with overseas friends. I also like that I can create a fan page for promoting my blog (please like my page)! Yet, at the same time, I don’t like Facebook because I always feel that the time spent online could have been used for something more meaningful. And for those people who are feel vulnerable or insecure, and we all feel this way at times, it can only exacerbate these emotions. In such a case, it may be good time to deactivate your Facebook account for a while!
How does Facebook affect your mood and what strategies have you employed for keeping it in perspective?