Does Facebook Make You Depressed?by Dr Emma Gray - 9th October, 2014
We all have within us a tendency to present the best version of ourselves to the outside world. This tendency is driven by a desire for praise and a fear of criticism and rejection. We also all, at times, are vulnerable to a tendency to compare ourselves unfavourably with others. Both of these tendencies are more pronounced when we are suffering from feelings of depression and anxiety or when we are struggling with low self esteem and low confidence.
In the short term these ways of coping when we are feeling unhappy, unsettled and inadequate can give us a temporary boost; we have been able to hide our true self and our true feelings which at some level we believe represent a weakness or failing and trigger feelings of shame in addition to depression and anxiety.
However in the longer term engaging with the world in this way creates more problems than it solves. We may start to feel fraudulent, isolated and the people who could help us, have no idea that we need them to. Overtime it becomes harder and harder to present the real and whole version of ourselves to people and to compare ourselves accurately to others, these ways of interacting become entrenched and the resulting feelings of low self esteem, depression and anxiety get worse.
Facebook offers us ‘at our fingertips’ access to these short term ways of coping with negative feelings. Without leaving our homes we are able to present an enhanced version of ourselves to our friends and acquaintances. Just by picking up our phone we can retreat behind a false façade and gain instant access to negative comparison with others, a truly effective way of criticising and undermining ourselves.
Facebook didn’t create these tendency, they are unfortunately a part of being human, but is creates a forum where they are concentrated. This alone would probably be enough to unbalance the social experience of an individual prone to bouts of low self esteem, depression and anxiety, but technology has become so pervasive some are also at risk of swapping their real self for a virtual self that is only able to make tenuous and illusory connections. There may be no depression and anxiety in our virtual lives but these may perch precariously on top of a dark and painful reality.