By: Lauren Napolitano, Psy. D, Licensed Psychologist; Bryn Mawr Hospital Psychiatric Unit
While Facebook is a quick and easy way to stay connected with others, it can be a very dangerous social medium for people who are experiencing challenges in their own lives. When you feel low about yourself and you log onto Facebook, you are inundated with people posting posts about themselves like:
“Renewing my vows with my husband. He says that I’m as beautiful now as I was on the day that he met me.”
“Can’t wait for my kitchen renovation at my beachfront house to be done. So tired of these contractors!”
“Thank you to everyone that sent me a gift for my birthday. I feel truly loved!”
Instead of making you feel better, these posts can actually make you feel worse about yourself by causing you to compare yourself to your friends and the versions of themselves that they present online. In reality, these online friends are often doing the same things as you, living a non-glamorous life and catching television reruns.
If you are prone to depression, Facebook reinforces the notion that your life is not good enough, that you are not accomplished enough. Some might argue that Facebook helps people stay connected. While it can be argued that Facebook decreases social isolation, it is not a substitute for real interactions. The interactions that make us feel connected and fulfilled are experiences with others, not just emails and shared photos.
But for anyone who is struggling with depression, visiting with friends and taking part in social activities might seem out of the question.
The key to battling depression is to avoid social isolation. Even if you don’t feel good enough to go out to dinner with a friend, schedule a night at the movies or take a walk with a friend. And if going to the movies with a friend seems daunting, spending time at the library or a local coffee shop can help you to feel distracted, and therefore, less preoccupied with your own problems. The goal is to stay out of your house. If you are alone with your thoughts, your thinking will become more depressed and more irrational.
Facebook is a tool to stay connected with friends and family, but if you’re prone to social comparison, Facebook has the potential to make you feel more depressed. Before logging onto Facebook, do a self-assessment of your mood. If your mood is depressed, you might want to delay logging onto Facebook as it’s possible that seeing others’ achievements posted online could make you feel worse. If your mood is happy, however, Facebook can be a great vehicle for staying in touch with others in order to make plans to get together. True happiness comes from mutually satisfying relationships.