Cry and click: What links depression to social media

Social networking sites have definitely changed us. Not because the way we communicate nor the way we connect to others has. How we view ourselves and the world are now in a flux more than ever because of social media.

I am coming clean. Two years ago, I suspected myself having a depression because of the usual things adolescents like me go through. Conflicts and issues with family, circle of friends, and even people I never thought I would care so much about became the dwelling thoughts in my mind from the moment I close my eyes to sleep to the time I wake up. I was actually not the type of person who cries easily when the going gets tough as I am used to put on a fierce and bold mask when terrible circumstances arise even though I am tearing up inside. How exactly did I escape  those dark times I do not know. However, as I discover my strengths and weaknesses from those experiences, there is this one that influenced my outlook in life now- yes, you are correct- social media.

(photo credits to : http://www.healthspablog.org)

Psychologists in the University of Leeds, UK studied if there is a relation between the use of Internet, particularly social media, and depression in February this year. They found that there is indeed a correlation between the two variables and even discovered that young people are more vulnerable to depression as their Internet addiction is definitely higher that middle-aged adults. The whole article can be read here.

The study even poses a new question whether the Internet causes depression or depressed people are drawn to browse the Net. In my experience ( as I cannot answer the question myself), I can say that depression and Internet come in cycle, and it is a case-to-case basis to know whether which variable comes first and which comes its implication. The more I visited social networking sites back then, the more I felt that depression covers me. But then, the more I become depressed, the more I sought the comfort of the world wide web.

I am contemplating on the reasons or factors why this phenomenon happens, and here is what I have came up with.

1. Social networking sites empower individuals to project the ‘self’ they think they are.

The conflict between the real self and ideal self of individuals clash in social networking sites. We always want to project a good image and reputation of ourselves, I think that is one basic human drive, to others. And in the Internet, we do this by making our profiles speak the best we have in ourselves. We post even hundreds of our vain photos (pictures of ourselves) in Facebook and Friendster. We want to show all our followers in Twitter that even notable people in the world are following us, too. We want to broadcast in the Net that we have 1,200 friends in Facebook, 50 photo albums, and our one status garners over 70 likes. But then, in real life away from the computer, are all these things true? Do we really look the ‘best’ as we do in our vain pictures everyday? Do we really mean it in real setting when we click ‘like’? I think there is a cognitive dissonance somewhere there and it may cause depression.

I Rate My Day! (www.iratemyday.com)

A social network where users are encouraged to describe how they are feeling that day. The company was founded by D2Soft Technologies based in Montreal, Canada.

2. Since our ideal self is what we want the world to see, we want that ideal self to be the best.

In other words, what we see and encounter in social networking sites give us reasons to be more envious of others. Or is it really that way? What we read, watch, or know from social networking sites sometimes make us feel our emotions, especially when they are negative, twice its heaviness. You feel so alone and problematic and there’s no one to comfort you and suddenly you found all your friends changed their status to ‘in a relationship’. Wouldn’t you feel heavier? You want to be the best in your class this semester and this high school competitor of yours when it comes to grades suddenly receives a lot of praises because he or she got a 1.0 in all his or her subjects? Wouldn’t it make you feel a loser? There is an implied competition in social networking sites without our awareness. We cannot help to compare ourselves with others, let’s say the one who you are stalking is in relationship with.

3. We realize that our cyberlife is different from real life.

In times of problems, we have the tendency to sign in on our social media accounts, post a status of what we are truly feeling, comment on that, and chat with those who are online. But then, do they really ease the pain and all? They help in some extent but the degree of how we feel and think is still the same. I am not saying that social media is or not therapeutic in this sense. Our 1,200 friends in Facebook are actually only 50 in real life. Among the 70 comments that our status has, only 10 of them are from friends that are really close to us. People in Facebook, Twitter, Multiply, or Tumblr may have all the :), :D, XD, or even :)))))))))))))))))))))) in their posts but not all of them have the same facial expression in the very same moment. I think in one way or another, this is a mechanism that we develop to project what we feel in the Internet. This is a probable cause if depression because there are instances wherein our emotions are actually augmented by our interactions in the Web.

But then, whatever reasons there are that account to our depression, what is important is how we deal with them and learn. This is even more exciting- social media is affecting us deeper as we do not know it- as social media is now a factor in our self-discovery.

4 responses

  1. Indeed, accounts on social networking sites are idealistic in nature. People post their best photos, write in an unfamiliar language, etc. just to jump in the bandwagon. By not being able to find a group through the bandwagon, one will definitely be depressed.

    Nevertheless, I think that depression does not solely rely on these social networking accounts. I guess being unsatisfied of one’s look can explain why the “click and cry” phenomenon happens.

    July 28, 2010 at 5:02 PM

  2. You seem so emo here, Jody. 😀 May pinagdadaanan ka ba? Gusto mo ng kausap? Hehehe.

    That’s actually my point. No matter how powerful the internet is, it is still bound to limitations. It cannot replace what we call a human’s “personal touch.” We may be depressed for several reasons:

    1. We feel alone.
    – The internet is our means to express ourselves. As we feel alone, we also feel that there are only limited people who would be willing to talk to us. We are all busy by the way.

    2. We feel we are not good enough.
    – It is through NSM that we pretend to be somebody else by portraying only things that are good in us. Here comes our discontentment on how we were packaged as an individual. Here comes our low self-esteem.

    And the list goes on… The internet serves as our portal to release our stress but at the same time, sometimes it even add up to our depression.

    August 4, 2010 at 10:36 AM

  3. In my case, I think it’s more likely that when a person is depressed, he/she is more likely to vent it out online. I guess it is because most of the time, it is easier to say things when you don’t have to say it to another human being. Also, I think that when you are depressed, you just feel like ranting and ranting, and you don’t really want to get any immediate reaction from anybody that requires an immediate response from you. At least online, you can choose to ignore your friends’ comments until you’re ready to answer them.

    In my case, the Internet is more of a stress-reliever or an escape route. Though sometimes, when there are factors that the Internet has failed to fulfill, I get angry easily. But then, I do have a weird personality. 😀

    August 10, 2010 at 9:57 PM

  4. Interesting blog entry Jody! I remember reading somewhere how the absence of internet access affects human psychology. There was this guy who camped out in a place where there is no internet connection and according to him, it made him feel relaxed, calmer and less confused. I think he stayed there for a week. Now psychologists are looking into how the internet is becoming much more than a distraction but how it can actually alter how people think. I think I’ll wait for the findings and that would be interesting!

    October 2, 2010 at 7:58 PM

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