“Facebook Depression”: Does It Exist?

30 Mar

Sorry for the late up-date! It’s been one of those weeks and I had an early doctor’s visit. (Ugh.) But now to answer a question:

Yes Alicia, I do take requests 🙂

Frequent commenter and sister to my man, Ms. Alicia forwarded this article on to me. It’s called: “‘Facebook Depression’: Do You Have It?” And I gotta admit, my first thought (before I even read the rest) was, well crap, I probably do.

If you are my Facebook friend, you know that I’m on-line and on Facebook way more often than I’d probably be willing admit. But of course my friends know, because FB tells you about all the little things I do.

And like author, Robert David Jaffee says,

I recognize that we are all facing pressures now that we never faced in our hunter-gatherer past. We are not used to leading a 24/7 existence and being besieged by technology.

But, what qualifies as Facebook depression?

Well, Jaffee does a good job at avoiding the topic of the title of his article. But he alludes to a few things that I have heard many times before:

  1. Thanks to the prevalence of social networking sites, we have less face to face contact with people.
  2. Thanks to the nature of said sites, we are more apt to compare ourselves to each other using what are sometimes meaningless numbers/statistics (i.e. facebook friends, status up-dates, comments and likes)
  3. And again, thanks to the ever-presence (for most of us) of internet access, we feel the need (and sometimes anxiety) to be available 24/7

All of these factors are important at looking at and defining what “Facebook Depression,” might be.

But whether or not you have it seems to be exactly NOT the point that people are questioning. Instead, the more important part seems to be questioning HOW Facebook, and other social networking sites, are getting in the way of our personal health/success. And this may be because for most people and businesses the question is HOW it will be making life better, not worse.

In short, I feel like people are overwhelmed. I know I am.

We live in a time of unprecedented access to information. The question we keep asking ourselves is what are we going to do with it? And that’s a scary question.

Because those who take advantage of it can disappear into wormholes of research while those who don’t feel like they’re choosing to miss out on a world, if only they could figure it out.

There are easy ways to combat the numbered issues raised above. Use Facebook to schedule those face-to-face meet-ups instead of avoiding them, don’t compare yourself to others—as my mom always said: “No matter what you think, you never know until you’ve walked in someone else’s shoes,” (I know, lots of moms say that), and finally, if you have a problem with over-using it, give yourself a cut-off time.

I think the answer is that there is no answer. And as far as Facebook goes? I don’t think it’s making you depressed, unless that’s what you’re using it for. In the long run, it’s still just a tool for us to use and the results are more dependant on you than it.

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5 Responses to ““Facebook Depression”: Does It Exist?”

  1. Doug Lance March 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    “I recognize that we are all facing pressures now that we never faced in our hunter-gatherer past. We are not used to leading a 24/7 existence and being besieged by technology.”

    Hunter-gatherers live in social groups with constant contact. The only time they were alone was when they went off to the woods with only a bundle of leaves and something to read. It’s not really that much different.

    “Thanks to the prevalence of social networking sites, we have less face to face contact with people.”

    This is a bad thing? We can now maintain many more relationships simultaneously while working on ourselves in private. Before Facebook, how many people would get invited to 10 parties a week? Now everyone does.

    “Thanks to the nature of said sites, we are more apt to compare ourselves to each other using what are sometimes meaningless numbers/statistics (i.e. facebook friends, status up-dates, comments and likes)”

    Hunter-gatherers did this too. “Oh shit, that girl has so many more shells on her necklace. I need more shells. I’m gonna be a fuckin turtle.” We did this before facebook. Comparing grades, clothes, or money–whatever.

    “And again, thanks to the ever-presence (for most of us) of internet access, we feel the need (and sometimes anxiety) to be available 24/7”

    Please excuse my speculation, but I think this is the pressure on us to transition toward virtual reality. Where we will be GODS. 😀

    In conclusion, I think the writer of this article is Amish.

    • redshana March 31, 2011 at 12:57 am #

      I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. Like I said in my post, the internet (at large) is a highly sophisticated tool that can be under-used and over-used. Just like we evolve, our technology evolves as well… the key is to evolve and adapt together.

  2. Alicia March 30, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    Yay! Thanks. One thing I found interesting in the article, too, is that it particularly points out potential problems with preteens and teens in dealing with this, which led me to ponder that maybe kids are actually LESS inclined to have this social media psychological trouble because they’ve always had Facebook and texting and Skype and whatever else.

    Just like kids are more apt to understand computers at a young age than are middle-aged adults, perhaps these same kids can separate Internet reality from actuality. Or, maybe, they don’t need to separate them at all.

    Our parents were appalled that we considered two-player Super Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo social time — rather than outside climbing trees and hunting bugs?? — but we never felt repercussions from it. (Maybe there’s an exception out there, but I’m going for generalizations.)

    Perhaps it’s the adults that are overwhelmed with information and don’t know how to deal. Maybe there’s something wrong with choosing the odd thrill that 15 of your high school classmates (that you don’t speak to away from Facebook) “liked” a post vs. the one-on-one or even group-setting laughter (a true LOL).

    But most importantly, if it’s becoming a problem (I’m embarrassed to admit my husband and I sit side-by-side on the couch in the evenings reading our news feeds when we could be having a conversation), then you’re right in that there comes a time when you have to set limits for yourself! (I’m going to take that thought home with me.)

    Sorry for the stream-of-consciousness typing!

    • zmfrederick April 1, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

      Hi,

      Nice post about Facebook usage. I just wrote an article summing up a whole bunch of different studies and surveys about Facebook addiction, the concept of frenemies, and why depression and other things affect heavy social media users.

      Here’s the link if you want to check it out:
      http://wp.me/p1fNJu-cv

      We’re also conducting a survey on Facebook usage, check it out here:
      http://bit.ly/h7lu7t

      • redshana April 2, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

        Interesting stuff! This quote: Researchers noted, however, that they were stuck figuring out which came first—the depressed chicken or the social media egg., is really what I’m interested in though. I have a feeling that the chicken might come first in this debacle but that Facebook is not only the egg, but the advertiser of sorts. People seem more willing to admit that they are “Facebook depressed” than just plain depressed.

        Maybe this is because then Facebook gets the blame instead of themselves? Or maybe there’ just still enough of a social taboo that it’s hard for people to admit when they are depressed.

        Thanks for commenting!

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