A few months ago popular media was overwhelmed with reports of ‘Facebook misery’ among youngsters and teenagers. A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) analysed the potential psychological issues associated with social networking sites and stated that social media has great psycho-social effect, hitting us hardest where we feel weak or less privileged.
For example, a shy person may feel distressed after seeing photos of groups of friends hanging out together on a beach or at a restaurant, or someone in a difficult relationship may feel miserable after going through loved-dovey photographs of couples.
According to Beenish Nafees, Health Outcomes Consultant/Psychologist, Nafees Consulting Limited, UK, people who spend lots of time on social websites are more prone to loneliness and isolation.
Explaining that while there is no formal definition or clear diagnosis of ‘social media depression’ currently, Nafees stresses that comparisons and reactions, which are an inevitable outcome of social media activity, play an important role in spreading anxiety and lowering self-esteem.
People tend to “show off” on social media which can trigger envy and/or jealousy in others. Viewers may consequently feel that everyone else but them is probably satisfied with their lives when that may simply not be true.
Meanwhile, the reactions received on our own posts serve as validation and increase our dependence on others’ opinions. Not receiving what we perceive to be an adequate number of ‘Likes’ on posts can be disheartening; not getting enough ‘Likes’ on a picture of oneself can shatter self-confidence.
I still remember how I felt better when people who used to find me dark or less attractive in the real world appreciated me for my six-filtered photo on social media. It was surely a big win for me at the time to have the approval of 400 ‘friends’, but now seems so artificial.
However, as this is a subject still being researched, there is some debate as to whether social media causes depression or people with depressive tendencies are more drawn towards it; until a consensus is reached it is imperative to be responsible, especially in the case of children who are engaging online with increasing independence.
"I still remember how I felt better when people who used to find me dark or less attractive in the real world appreciated me for my six-filtered photo on social media."
Parents must constantly communicate with children, familiarise themselves with their online habits, set rules, and most importantly, set a good example. For instance, regularly ‘checking in’ at various locations, or posting pictures of food you’re about to eat sends the message that showing off is far more important than enjoying the moment.
For mature people like you and I, two simple rules can be applied to restrain the menace of melancholy caused by social media.
1. Try to give yourself a rest. If you are constantly scrolling through your phone, tablet, laptop to stay on top of social updates, then it’s time to take a break from devices and do something else, like reading a book or newspaper. Get involved in a physical activity – table-tennis doesn’t require a lot of space or equipment. And if you really need a hit of socialising, try actually talking to someone in real life (IRL).
2. Try not to obsess over what people say. A ‘Like’ on your selfie will not make you any more adorable to the people who actually care about you. Similarly, a comment that disagrees with your tweet is not necessarily a personal attack on you.
Being on social media should be a positive experience. If you’re absorbing too much negativity, constantly comparing yourself to friends or feeling the sting of rebuff, then maybe it’s time to disconnect for a while.