Commentary

Still More Evidence Links Facebook To Depression

Facebook is obviously here to stay, but some people may need to start changing or moderating their usage because of the risk of depression. That’s right, yet another study has been published linking Facebook to depression, perhaps because it encourages people to compare themselves with other users -- or rather, with the idealized, unrealistic images other users choose to share, depicting themselves in the best possible light.

The latest study, titled “Seeing Everyone Else's Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms” and published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, is actually based on two studies, both of which demonstrated a correlation between time spent on Facebook and depressive symptoms.

The first study asked 180 subjects about their use (or non-use) of Facebook and determined that Facebook users are more inclined to make social comparisons overall than non-Facebook users. The second study asked a total of 152 subjects to keep daily diaries recording the amount of time spent on Facebook daily over a two-week period, and found that the amount of time spent on Facebook, the number of logins, and the tendency to conduct social comparisons were all linked with depressive systems.

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It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean Facebook causes the depression -- in fact, it’s just as plausible that people who are already depressed or vulnerable to depression spend a lot of time on Facebook. However it’s still problematic even without direct causation, because Facebook provides a negative psychological mechanism that reinforces and possibly worsens their depression.

Lead researcher Mai-Ly Steers of the University of Houston noted: “It doesn't mean Facebook causes depression, but that depressed feelings and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand in hand.”

Steers went on: “One danger is that Facebook often gives us information about our friends that we are not normally privy to, which gives us even more opportunities to socially compare. You can't really control the impulse to compare because you never know what your friends are going to post. In addition, most of our Facebook friends tend to post about the good things that occur in their lives, while leaving out the bad. If we're comparing ourselves to our friends’ ‘highlight reels,’ this may lead us to think their lives are better than they actually are and conversely, make us feel worse about our own lives.”

 
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