Is Facebook causing depression?

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The world of social media can be a wonderful place. At times it looks like your the center of attention with everyone liking and tweeting about you. But do these tools also affect relationships? Let’s explore the gloomier side of Facebook and find out what measures you can take to secure your families mental health.

It all starts with the obsession for the perfect social media post. We all want people to like us. Joseph Grenny & David Maxfield of Crucial Conversations (New York Times best sellerfame have revealed a  study on the way social media praise affects our lives. They surveyed 1,623 people and they found that 58% of people surveyed said “posting the perfect picture has prevented them from enjoying life experiences.” and that 79% say they have seen parents “undermine their own experience in a child’s life” in order to get a like. Really parents?

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Missing your child’s precious moments just to get a ‘like’ or exposing yourself to dangerous situations just to get a perfect picture for social media is leading us on a path to many psychiatric ailments and even death. We already have multiple fatal cases of teenagers climbing bridges and taking selfies when driving.

Lets take some of the major mental disorders and see how social media is affecting us.

Is social media making us sad?

Depression (or more accurately Major Depression) is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities.

Margaret Duffy, a professor and chair of strategic communication at the MU School of Journalism and Edson Tandoc, an assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore performed a survey among 700 college students and published their findings in the reputed Computers in Human Behavior.

In short the study showed that using social media for the purpose of keeping in touch with friends and family would not trigger any mood disorder and may even lessen it. However, the study pointed out that having a mindset of constantly scanning your friends posts to trigger envy (searching for the “Oh Wow! ‘She’ got a new car” type of post) would ultimately lead to depressive thoughts.

It can also be expected that leading a double life on social media (good boy in school, bad boy on facebook), lacking a reasonable attention span and insomnia are some of the other significant problems which I am sure we will hear more about as time goes on.

Cyber bullying and suicide: What you can do

While having personal doubts is one thing, people talking about taking their life or getting bullied online is not something you should put up with. There is enough evidence that cyber bullying is leading to suicide and even Facebook has taken notice of these rising trends.

Here are some things we can do:

  1. Your life is worth much more than a like. If your a person who is feeling down talk to somebody, its OK we have all been there.
  2. If you’re a parent stay close to your kids and learn more about social media instead of saying ‘these kids today are way ahead of us’. It could save their life!
  3. If you don’t like something you see about yourself on facebook learn how to report it. Reporting an image leads to a 65% chance of changing the situation according to Facebook.
  4. In the US Facebook has teamed up with experts in preventing suicides to create an alert mechanism and support. Over here in Sri Lanka we have ‘Sri Lanka Sumithrayo’ and you can find their details here. You can also use the Doc Call service from Mobitel.

So you now have no excuse not to act and hopefully you will. If you want to educate your staff Facebook has a great resource for teachers and community leaders.