Let me start by saying I’m a big fan of social media!
If you follow me and see how much I post, you’ll know this about me. But this February I decided to take myself off Facebook.
The past couple months I noticed that every time I posted something showing my life as a makeup artist, I got hundreds of likes and comments saying my life looked so “unbelievable” and “glamorous,” but as soon as I posted something really meaningful—like signing a petition to end homelessness—I was barely getting any likes or comments at all. I don’t know if this was because no one cared or because Facebook’s algorithms didn’t show those posts to people. Maybe it was a combination of both.
Either way, that was the first thing that really upset me.
Then I started noticing how much time I was logged in, and I soon realized I was addicted! Addicted to seeing what everyone else was doing and addicted to seeing who liked my posts! I spent countless hours looking at my news feed.
But more than that, it started affecting me, making me feel depressed. I saw how everyone’s lives seemed so much more exciting than mine, and it made me feel lonely.
That raised a red flag. How can I have over 500 friends and feel so lonely? How is it that everyone seems to have such amazing lives and mine is so sad?
I saw this video, too, and it really brought some clarity and self-awareness to my situation.
Facebook gives you a false sense of reality. We all only post things that show us in our best light. Ultimately I realized that I have ’t spoken to many of the people I’m supposedly “friends” with in years!
I started to ask myself tough questions.
Do I ever call any of these “friends”? NO.
Do any of these “friends” ever call me? NO.
Do any of those “friends” really care about me or my son? NO.
Finally, I had to ask myself the hardest question. Do I care about these “friends”? Unfortunately, the answer was again, NO.
So finally I got around to asking myself why I was on this social media platform? Why was I so interested in knowing what was going on in these people’s lives? I couldn’t find an answer because all I could think about was how it makes us become more antisocial. How many times do I have my phone stuck to my hands while in line at the supermarket, doctor’s office, or airport? How about going on a hike or looking around and being aware of who and what surrounds me NOW!
My last post on Facebook was, “I have decided to remove myself from Facebook. If anyone wants to know how Maxwell and I are doing, you’ve got my number.”
How many responses did I get from my 536 friends? Less than ten!
So, I started doing some research online about Facebook and depression. Many articles popped up immediately.
An interesting article on Forbes said that studies link Facebook to depression, low self-esteem, and bitter jealousy.
Here are a couple examples of the negative mental health effects Facebook can have on us.
Depression is an isolating disease because you spend your life horrifically alone in your head. Imagine being in a room filled with friends, family, and loved ones and still feeling utterly lost and abandoned. Now compound that with staring alone at a screen reading about other people’s lives, hoping and waiting for someone to comment on or like something you wrote. This can trigger a sense of intense bleakness in a depression sufferer.
Playing the Comparison Game
Depression sufferers almost always reflexively play the “comparison game.” They devote huge amounts of energy in measuring themselves against others and irrationally come up lacking. It’s an awful form of pessimism, fixation, and envy. Combine that with Facebook and this damaging “game” worsens. When we see a friend excitedly announce a new job on Facebook, we might think, “Why not me? I’m worthless.” Logically, we know all this does is feed the disease, but this isn’t a rational game.
Piggybacking on the comparison game is the fact that Facebook posts never show the full story. That friend who got the new job might have marital issues or suffer severe debt. The friend who bought the new house might be an alcoholic or abusive. In my experience, the majority of Facebook users post only things of a positive nature, but a depressed person cannot see this and instead takes everything at face value. If so-and-so bought a house, she must have everything she wants in life. She’s better than me. If so-and-so got a new job, he’s clearly rolling in dough compared to me, living paycheck-to-paycheck. He made it. I didn’t.
Depression fills in the blanks with fantasy allowing absurdity to consume truth. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent envying friends’ Facebook lives only to find out they were unhappy beyond the screen. And while these revelations might help me to see reality initially, depression refuses to lift its boot from my neck. It pushes harder than before, forcing me to expend so much energy in reminding myself that what I’m reading or seeing isn’t real that eventually I give out. I move on to someone else and that awful jealousy over what may just be a happy mask returns with a vengeance.
I had to face the facts. Facebook was a waste of my time, but worse, it was leading me down a dark hole I wasn’t sure I could climb out of.
If you’ve noticed any of the above symptoms in yourself, maybe it’s time to get off Facebook, even if you start small with a week-long hiatus. Start living your life instead of living through the edited, online version of others!
It’s all too easy to lose ourselves in this world of the Internet, where we don’t call people anymore to ask how they’re doing because we feel like we know what’s going on in their lives through social media.
The only social media I’ve decided to keep is Instagram for my work, as I know it’s important to be able to promote myself that way, but this decision is for me!
Pick up the phone and call a friend today! Be alive! Be in the NOW!