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Is Facebook Causing You To Be Depressed?

Social Media Depression

How many minutes each day do you spend scrolling through your Facebook news feed?

What about your kids or grandkids?  How much time do they devote to social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat?

Have you ever stopped to think about how you feel or observed your kids’/grandkids’ demeanor after being on social media?

A study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology reports, “People feel depressed after spending a great deal of time on Facebook because they feel bad when comparing themselves to others.”

 

What constitutes a great deal of time? 

Only you can decide that, but consider these statistics.

Facebook boasts its 1.65 billion active monthly users fritter away an average of 50 minutes every day on its platforms.

The Social Skinny reports fifty percent of 18 to 24 year olds go on Facebook as soon as they wake up!

It’s practically impossible to refrain from social media sites because it’s accessible on every computer and mobile device we own.  (And yes, Facebook is open on my computer as I write this column.)

 

Social Comparison Theory

It’s human nature to see how our lives and experiences compare to those of others.  We determine our progress or success in life by seeing how we match up against others.  Psychologists call this the social comparison theory.

Although it’s a natural tendency, and even though we know that using social media could cause us to be depressed, anxious, jealous, or even angry, you and I still give in to the urge and scroll through Facebook looking to see what other people’s lives are like in comparison to ours.

Writer Jamie Friedlander says, “We used to compare ourselves to how we saw people at family gatherings or in the office.  Now we compare ourselves to perfectly crafted (and sometimes exaggerated) representations of people’s lives – without seeing the engagement ring that doesn’t fit, the sunburn while surfing in Costa Rica, the less-than-stellar salary at the new job or the anxiety that comes with having a newborn baby.  We see exactly what they want us to see.”

 

One-Upping the Joneses

Facebook and other similar sites have evolved into seeing who can impress others the most.  Much content shared on social media is carefully crafted to present the best possible representations of us and/or our situations.

Even mundane daily life can be scripted to be thrilling and exciting – all with the intention of giving others the impression our life is better than what it really is.

On the flip side, seeing others’ carefully crafted posts can make us feel inferior, less than perfect, or like we’re missing out.

 

Keeping Social Media in Check

So what can you do to prevent social media from dragging you or your kids into the doldrums and depression?

First and foremost, “People need to learn to take other people’s social media posts with a grain of salt and recognize that it represents how people want to share their experience.  All the facts are not there,” advises Karen North, Ph.D, a clinical professor of communication and the director of the digital and social media at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Second, be gracious towards the successes of others.  Make a conscious decision to not become jealous or envious.  Rather, congratulate them and be thankful for what you do have in your life.

Finally, take a break from social media.  A technology detox helps us reconnect with people around us, experience greater peace, calms our mind, and improves our ability to think and feel.

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The Truth About Kids & Internet Safety

All of us have heard the news stories, read the pamphlets, and listened to experts warn about the dangers to children and teens lurking on the Internet.

The truth is, however, that these risks are largely overhyped and happen extremely rarely.  A 2008 PBS documentary entitled “Growing Up Online” examines each danger of the Internet and reveals which threats pose the greatest risks to kids – and which ones don’t (you may be surprised!).  The entire episode can be viewed online at http://tinyurl.com/2y29qb.

Although the dangers aren’t as common as we may believe, parents shouldn’t simply throw caution to the wind.  It is critically important for parents to stay actively involved in their children’s or teens’ lives, including their online activities.

 

CHALLENGES PARENTS FACE

Parents face several challenges when it comes to their kids’ online lives:

1)     Staying current is difficult.  The Internet is constantly changing.  New websites appear every day.  Keeping up with these changes can be challenging.

2)     Kids are smarter than adults – technologically.  They have grown up with computers and the Internet, so their level of experience and knowledge is much greater.

3)     They go online without adults being present.  Parents can’t be around their kids 24/7.

4)     Their desire for independence creates a struggle.  They want freedom and privacy; parents want to know what their kids are doing online, which comes across as intrusive.

So how do parents overcome these challenges?

KEEPING THEM SAFE

A balanced, common-sense, level-headed approach is the best.  Overreaction and extreme measures seldom have the desired effect.

First, parents must be aware and actively involved in their adolescent’s lives.  Taking a hands-off approach hurts the children in the long term.

Second, educate yourself about the Internet.  Learn what the popular sites are.  Investigate the parental control and privacy tools available to help you monitor your child’s online activities.

Third, communicate.  Honest and open dialog between parents and their kids eliminates a myriad of problems.  Asking questions about what they do online and who their online friends are.  Teach them how to stay safe online.  Encourage them to come to you if they ever experience something bad online, such as bullying, threats, or unwanted sexual advances.

Finally, set age-appropriate rules for their Internet usage – and enforce them.  Discuss with your kids the expectations you have.  Let them know that you will be monitoring their online behavior and activity.  Consistently enforce the rules and punish inappropriate behavior.

Understand that the Internet is a significant part of kids’ lives today.  Following these simple guidelines can help you safely navigate your children through the World Wide Web.