Social media can be bad for your mental health. Some studies claim that it causes depression.
Others claim that it does not. There’s even a scientific study that concludes that social media is in fact a significant cause of depression.
While some argue that social media actually enhances our mental health, there are some who believe that it has a negative impact on our wellbeing.
A study conducted at New York University found that people who post too much on social media can experience depression-like symptoms.
1. Social media makes people feel like they are a part of a group
A study conducted at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2012 found that people felt depressed and lonely when they felt left out of the community and not included in the conversations on social media.
I’m going to use myself as an example here. When I started a group on Facebook for aspiring crime writers, I told my friends in the group what I was doing so that they could be a part of my new journey.
However, a few days after I posted, I started getting complaints that they were tired of me talking about it and didn’t want to listen to it any longer.
These people are actually my close friends, and I’m sure they could give you a detailed explanation on how I went from an outgoing, interesting person to a socially anxious recluse in just one month.
This was in December 2013.
Before social media, I was a pretty social person. I loved interacting with people and didn’t really have a problem sitting down for a couple of hours to listen to someone’s problems.
But then, after only about a month of the social media trend of liking and sharing photos of your dinner, your shoes, and your cat, I couldn’t go out of my house.
I would come home from work and just watch a couple of YouTube videos while doing absolutely nothing. I would not have sex with my partner because I felt like I needed to get some rest and escape my house, lest I be that person who cried on the street corner for hours after a breakup.
I quickly noticed that all of my friends who grew up in the internet generation seemed depressed and unhappy.
When I started looking up statistics on social media and depression, I realized that many people had complained that they used Facebook as a way to complain and complain about how they felt.
That’s when I realized that people weren’t really using social media the way I thought they were.
2. People make a new identity for themselves online
People who use social media as a tool to express themselves are not actually communicating with real people. Instead, they are creating a new identity for themselves.
They can put a persona out there and communicate with other people under that identity.
People who put themselves out there can reach thousands of people with a single post.
If you have a degree in engineering, you can post a lot of pictures of your smart gadgets and show off your knowledge of technology. If you are an illustrator, you can post a bunch of illustrations of cats.
The problem with people who make a persona for themselves is that they don’t know the difference between social media and reality.
If you put a bunch of photos out there on social media and post comments on your friends’ posts, you are most likely seeing other people’s lives in a different way than they do.
A couple of years ago, I noticed something weird. I was chatting with one of my friends, and then suddenly I started seeing comments popping up on his feed.
I didn’t even recognize the username, but the comments were there. My friend and I didn’t have the same tastes in fashion or television, but the person’s posts seemed to take me out of the conversation.
I can see how that can happen.
I started looking at my friends’ feeds and realized that there were very few posts that seemed to be real and not created by the person.
They might not have thought much about it or even know how they would feel if I posted something like this. But I felt like my responses to the posts would be affected.
This is where a lot of people make a major mistake. They start commenting on the things that are important to them, like school, career, friends, or family.
They don’t want to give up that time or attention to respond to someone else’s post. They see it as a way to show that they care. But this person isn’t really a part of their life.
3. People let their smartphones rule them
I felt like a kid in a candy store with my smartphone. Whenever I woke up in the morning, I checked my phone.
I would send text messages and see when my friends would wake up and check their own social media pages.
At night, I started staying up really late and would lie in bed playing mobile games until I could barely keep my eyes open.
I felt like I had taken over my entire life, and I lost the ability to be present and care about anything.
What’s worse, I started to feel like my life was really boring. I would wake up in the morning and wonder why I had spent my entire weekend laying in bed playing games.
I had nothing interesting to say. The more I ignored people, the less they wanted to talk to me, and the less they liked me.
4. People aren’t true friends
I started to see friends of mine posting and telling people that they were my friends, and I never even realized that they weren’t my real friends.
I was a little surprised when I found out that some of my friends weren’t using social media to be genuine. They weren’t asking about my life or my family, but rather posting stuff that was inspirational or funny or just another story about how bad their boyfriend was.
The one thing that shocked me the most is when I heard one of my real friends making a comment about how fake her Facebook page was.
I knew she wasn’t being honest, but it didn’t make the fact that she had no respect for other people hurt any less.
To this day, I don’t even know how my friend was able to get my phone number. She was probably the most popular person at the school, and she asked a lot of questions.
It was possible that she had a group of friends who just let her talk about all the things she wanted, and they would come along for the ride.
Or, maybe she could make fake people and get away with it.