The prevalence of the term Facebook Depression is an indicator as to how widespread this phenomenon is today. Here is a closer look by guest blogger Kristie Lewis at the validity of this alarming development.
Facebook Depression? A Tale of Two Opinions
I never really paid much attention to how social media supposedly affected its users until the issue became impossible to further ignore. After hearing about a rampant wave of young-adult suicides, due in part to cyber-bullying and a new phenomenon called "Facebook Depression," I became extremely concerned for my emotional well-being. Even though I was a healthy, emotionally stable adult, I began to wonder if my social media usage could afflict me without me even being aware. So I set out to learn how Facebook affects the emotional states of its users.
Throughout my quest to uncover a definitive answer, I have encountered two varied opinions. According to some studies, Facebook has no correlation to causing a depressive state in its users. On the other hand, there are other studies that believe it can cause minor to significant depression in its users. For those interested in the debatable linkage between depression and Facebook, let's take a look into the two stances.
Yes, Facebook causes depression
According to a 2011 story in Opposing Views, a study conducted at Edinburgh Napier University found that Facebook was not only linked to depression, but also to tendencies of feeling stressed and anxious. Of the 200 participants in the small university study, 32 percent admitted to feelings of embarrassment/guilt after getting their friend requests rejected, and 12 percent emphasized that Facebook in general made them feel anxious. “The responses we got in focus groups and one-to-one interviews suggest the survey figures actually under-represent aspects of stress and anxiety felt by some Facebook users, whether it’s through feelings of exclusion, pressure to be entertaining, paranoia or envy of others’ lifestyles.” Dr. Kathy Charles, the survey conductor, said in the news story.
In this instance, Charles brings up a rather noteworthy point: Facebook has over 850 million users and gets an estimated 1 trillion pages views per month. Can you imagine how overwhelming and distressing it must feel to keep up with the lives of hundreds of "friends" who come in and out of your life? Let's say you got out of a heartbreaking relationship, but never deleted that former lover off your friends list. How depressing would it be to see them in images with a new boyfriend or girlfriend so quickly after your breakup? Wouldn't that make you feel a little depressed?
Years ago, when we lost connection with people, they vanished from our lives. Facebook has transformed our ability to reengage with people, and though that may sound like an exciting innovation, it isn't always a positive thing. The prestigious Atlantic Magazine even ran a cover story dedicated to that very topic, saying, "We are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet we have never been more accessible. Over the past three decades, technology has delivered to us a world in which we need not be out of contact for a fraction of a moment." In this case, I believe the magazine brings up a noteworthy point. In a day and age when we are constantly in contact with each other, when is there a chance to build independence and self-confidence by ourselves?
In general, human solitude has grown over the years, and websites like Facebook only increase our tendencies to feel isolated and alone. According to The Atlantic "in 1950, less than 10 percent of American households contained only one person," but nowadays nearly 27 percent of households house one person. And as countless studies have already proven, living alone is a chief cause of depression and anxiety.
Many experts argue that the pressure to be on Facebook coupled with rejected friend requests, hurtful commentary, and a list of hundreds of "friends" to follow can lead us to feel depressed, anxious, and stressed. But, as expected, there is another side to this argument.
No, Facebook does not cause depression
A more recent news report released just last week countered the belief that "Facebook Depression" was a real ailment. In fact, the university study mentioned in the news report strongly suggests that Facebook has no linkage to feelings of depression in its users.
A mental health story on MSNBC discussed the disputed belief that Facebook causes feelings of depression. The story refers to a study conducted by Wisconsin-Madison University in which 190 students, aged 18-23, were surveyed about the effects their Facebook exposure caused. As part of the study, the students were screened for depression and separated into categories based on their overall Facebook usage, ranging from high use, average use, and low use.
In the end, the study found that students "who spent the most time on Facebook were no more likely to be depressed than those who spent just a few minutes a day on the site."
Furthering the study's point, in opinion column from The Huffington Post, journalist Larry Magid firmly disputed the belief in Facebook depression. He believes a number of previous reports failed to take into account some crucial nuances and details in their research, such as verifying the emotional states of users before they ever used Facebook and the quality of friendships a user had established with their "friends" on Facebook.
Throughout my inquiry and research into whether or not Facebook caused depression, I hoped that I would uncover some definitive, concrete answers. Yet, as I suspect is the case in most any phenomenon, we can never really give a definitive yes or no answer to anything. Some of us may be more inclined to being depressed and Facebook only fuels that fire. Others might be perfectly content all the time, in spite of all the loneliness Facebook is suspected to create.
In this case, I'll let you decide for yourself how Facebook affects your emotional state. If it seems to be affecting you negatively, perhaps dial back your usage and talk to a professional. If it is doing no such thing, then, by all means, keep using it in an appropriate manner.
This is a guest post by Kristie Lewis. A blogger who writes about the construction management industry, Kristie knows that not all construction management careers are the same. You can contact her directly at Kristie.firstname.lastname@example.org.