After you spend half an hour scrolling through Facebook, how do you feel?
Is your news feed full of puppy pictures that make you smile? Political rhetoric that angers and annoys you? Or is it full of images of family and friends having weekend barbecues — photos that make you feel like you’re missing out?
If you find that you feel down after spending time on Facebook or Twitter, you’re not alone. A study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that people who use social media very frequently are 2.7 times more likely to be depressed.
Why is this — and more importantly — what can you do about it? Here are six sneaky ways that social media can contribute to depression along with some ideas for combatting the Facebook blues.
- Facebook gives you FOMO — Fear Of Missing Out. What isn’t fun when you’re stuck in your truck at a truck stop in Alabama for the night is to take out your phone and see images of loved ones back home going to parties, playing games, and having fun without you. With nothing to do but sit in your truck and ruminate on how how much fun everyone is having without you, your feelings can start to snowball and can contribute to depression. We recommend that instead of feeling down because you’re missing out now, use your negative emotions to motivate you to make plans for your next home time. Organize a backyard barbecue, plan a date with your significant other, or make a promise to take your kids to the zoo. Having these events to look forward to can decrease your FOMO and make you feel more positive.
- Social media encourages you to compare yourself to others. Most people use social media as a bragging tool to show off the new house they just bought, the amazing wedding they just attended, or the trophy their kid just won. If you took Facebook’s word for it, you might think that your friends never fight with their wives or struggle with money or drink too much. And if you start comparing your real self to the elevated imaginary version of self that most people put up for display on social media, it can get downright depressing. This is where it might be helpful to whittle down your social media contacts. If your brother-in-law’s posts about the success of his law practice are making you feel inadequate or less than important, why not Unfollow him? That way you can stay Facebook friends, but you won’t see his jealously-inducing posts.
- Social media is interfering with your sleep. Sleep deprivation has long been recognized as a serious cause of depression. And if you spend a lot of time checking social media before bed, you may be cutting down on your chance to get a good night’s sleep. For one thing, it is way too easy to keep scrolling through your news feed when you should be sleeping. For another, the light from your smart phone has been shown to disrupt your body’s sleep cycle, making it more difficult for you to fall asleep. We recommend replacing your late night Facebook sessions with a different activity like reading or listening to podcasts.
- You have replaced real human interaction with social media. A smiley emoji is never going to be able to lift your spirits the way that an actual smile — even one from a stranger — will. It’s tempting to hide behind your phone when you get into social situations on the road, but if you do, you’re missing out on chances to do the things that fight depression. It’s important to make eye contact, engage in small talk, or even help a stranger struggling to back into a parking spot. You can’t do these things if you’re staring at your screen.
- You’ve become a victim of social media cyberbullying. People on the internet can be mean. Like, really mean. The anonymity of the internet gives cyberbullies the courage to say things online that they would never dream of saying to your face. Cyberbullying is prevalent on forms of social media and while the comments might be digital, their effects can be physical, painful, and even deadly. Numerous studies have linked cyberbullying to teen depression and suicide. If you’ve been victimized by cyberbullies or cyberstalkers, click here for some ideas on how to combat the online attacks.
- You’re suffering from smartphone addiction. According to the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, around 90% of Americans overuse or abuse their smartphones in a way that borders on addiction. And between 10% and 12% of Americans are so dependent on their phones that they are actually considered to be addicted — a condition which comes complete with withdrawal symptoms if they can’t access their phones. Social media certainly contributes to smartphone addiction — the average American spends 30 minutes every single day on social media sites accessed through mobile devices. Our recommendation? An occasional “technology cleanse” — schedule a period of time when you promise yourself that you’ll ignore your phone and other forms of technology. Make sure you choose a time that is safe for you to cleanse and let loved ones know why you won’t be accessible so that they won’t worry. Even just a single social media-free day can have a big impact on your mental health. Learn more about trying a technology cleanse by clicking here.