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.
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.
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.