Social media and social networking have benefits including connecting with loved ones and friends, and creating career connections. While these benefits are important, it is also important to look at the link between social networking and mood.
A recent Forbes article reported about a study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology which found that “social comparison,” making comparisons between ourselves and others, is the mediating factor between Facebook and depressive symptoms. In this study from the University of Houston, results showed that persons who used Facebook more frequently demonstrated more depressive symptoms. This doesn’t mean that Facebook or social media is the cause of depression! It can indicate that spending a lot of time on social media comparing oneself to others can result in depressed feelings.
Previous research regarding social comparison has shown that persons making upward social comparisons, such as looking at someone more attractive or popular that oneself, would make that person feel worse or sad. On the other hand, persons making downward comparisons, such as looking at someone less attractive or less popular then oneself, would make that person feel better or happier. Forbes reports that this current study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that persons who used Facebook more frequently had more depressive symptoms, regardless of the direction of comparison (upward or downward).
To summarize, it is not social media itself which causes depression, but the way in which we compare ourselves to others which can lead to or worsen depressive symptoms. While cutting down on the use of social media can be helpful, the results of this study do not indicate that we should disconnect from all social media platforms. Instead, consider taking breaks from social media and social networking. When comparing oneself to others, consider the positives that exist in your own life and identify some people or things you can be grateful for. When examining other’s lives on social media, consider that what friends and peers post on social media will often be the happy and attractive parts of their lives, and that every person likely has more going on in their lives, positive and negative, than what is portrayed on social media.
If you would like more information about depression and counseling services, please contact Specialized Therapy Associates at (201)-488-6678 and check out our website at www.specializedtherapy.com.