A few days ago, I was writing my final for psychology on the topic of depression in young adults.
During my research, I came across the term “Facebook depression,” a term used to describe depression that is triggered by the persistent use of social media and is most common among high school and college students. As we all know, social media is a very important part of today’s society and everyone’s favorite pastime.
Our first instinct when we have a moment to ourselves is to scroll through our newsfeed to see what our followers are up to. Between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and others, we spend a good couple of hours a day just mindlessly scrolling, liking, and sharing. You would think that something we willingly spend a large portion of our free time on would be enjoyable. However, we are all very aware of the damage social media causes. There has been extensive research into the harm oversharing does to your mental health to the point where psychologists have had to create the term “Facebook depression.”
So why do we keep doing it? Well, to be perfectly honest, it’s fun! I love turning on my phone during my break and seeing what funny videos have been posted today or see what people are saying about the latest episode of The Walking Dead. But I have also experienced depressive episodes brought about by my accounts.
Once upon a time, I completely based my self-worth on my social media. I used to scroll through my friend's pages and wonder why I wasn’t getting as many likes or comments as them. I was so desperate for followers, I would follow random people I didn’t know or care about just so I could have more followers than some girl I didn’t like. I genuinely felt that if I didn’t get over a certain amount of likes that it meant I was ugly or that people didn’t like me, even when I was getting 50+ likes. My wakeup call came one day when I was on vacation; I made my boyfriend take dozens of photos with me, not because I was enjoying our time together and I wanted to remember this moment with him, but because I knew vacation couple photos would probably get me a lot of likes and stupid comments about how we are “relationship goals”. I remember thinking that if I couldn’t get a good photo, our vacation would be useless. That moment I realized how stupid I was and deleted my Instagram and Facebook a few days later. To be able to go to a party and not have to worry about taking a picture so people know how social I am or worry about how many followers I lost that day was incredible. I managed to convince a few of my close friends to do the same after they saw how much happier I was and they all said that they felt as though they had been “freed.”
But unlike a lot of people, I don’t necessarily support a total social media blackout. I tell most of my friends that they need to think of social media like food. The “junk” is the stuff that makes us feel bad about ourselves such as anything that is like or comment-based like Instagram and Facebook. If you don’t want to completely cut those things out than simply cut back. Unfollow anyone who has had a negative effect on your life, anyone you find yourself comparing yourself to (like those annoying yoga and gym obsessed people who you keep on your feed for “motivation” even though you know you’ll never be like them), or anyone you haven’t seen or talked to in over two years. Following Tina, a girl you went to high school with and haven’t spoken to in four years and is a lot more successful than you is not healthy. Stop comparing yourself to Tina - without social media, you wouldn’t even know she existed anymore. I decided in college to completely get rid of the twitter account I had with 400+ followers and start a new one where I only followed comedy accounts, my close friends and family, and various other things that actually interest me. I currently have 88 followers and I couldn’t be happier.
If I was a dietitian I would tell you to eat more fruits and vegetables and other things that make you feel good. If you are a social media lover, find what makes you feel happy. I love Snapchat because people can be ugly, funny, or just themselves and there’s no “like” system or even anything to tell outside followers how many people viewed your story. Anything to nurture creativity or anywhere you can share common interests like Pinterest or Tumblr I highly recommend as well. Fill your spare time with things that will make you laugh or make you happy as opposed to the junk that makes you feel bad about yourself in the end.
So in 2018, I propose a challenge to you. If you find yourself falling too deep into social media, go through a social media detox. Don’t starve yourself from social media but detox the toxins and consume smarter. You would be amazed how much your life can change when you detach yourself from something that once meant a lot to you. You just might find that thing to actually be quite meaningless.