Today we live in a world full of amenities and comforts, never in the past one could imagine living like emperors, and among these one of the most influential pieces of technology is the ability to communicate with others despite the great distances between them. While the telephone was the first invention that brought such capability to us, the modern world offered us social media to keep in touch with our loved ones but it is proving to have a different effect on people. Facebook, one of the first social media platforms has not only brought family and friends within reach but depression as well.
Even if you are among the rare ones who have never used Facebook once in their life, you cannot deny that you have not at least heard of it as we are surrounded by it. In today’s world, one is not considered a friend unless they add you on Facebook but this is not how it all started. Facebook was formed in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes while they were students at Harward University. Initially started as a project to build a platform for college students to communicate on soon become one of the most used social networking websites as in 2012 it registered over 1 billion users.
While it seems like a no-harm, innocent place for users to communicate and share their life, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has been in hot waters for some years now after it was revealed that private data of users have been stolen and they are being monitored without their consent. Despite all the allegations and backlash, it remains functional and still works similarly. So, regardless of the data theft, how is it causing depression?
Facebook and Depression
Even if some people disagree with this notion, statistics cannot be denied that out of 329 million people living in the USA about 300 million Americans are registered with Facebook and the time users are seen online or actively using the platform shows us which are the audience that is suffering the most. At any given time around 95% of the users that stay online are teenagers, followed by 77% of adults being active, this shows us that teenagers are most likely having mental issues due to this website.
The reason behind such an addiction can also be linked with the advancements in technology, previously we were only able to use Facebook once we log in via our computers, and of course, they are not portable even talking about laptops because one has to sit in ideal condition to be able to use it but when it comes to smartphones they are easily used on the go. Furthermore, the internet has become widespread, if one has a cellphone they are likely to be connected to the world via the internet and if they are not using their data, wifi is pretty much available everywhere. While the continuous staring at a screen has its ill effects but those are on the physical level, social media affects one on the psychological level. There are three main reasons how it causes depression.
- Comparison: It is our human nature to compare ourselves to someone new or known people when they achieve something new and great in their lives. However, in the past, the only way to know both were either by communicating on the phone, which mitigated the visual aspect, or by meeting someone in person but thanks to Facebook we are constantly bombarded with this stream of activities occurring in others’ lives and we are unable to control ourselves and end up comparing ourselves to others. Combining this aspect of human nature with the statistics, that most teenagers are using these platforms we can deduce they are most vulnerable to depression. For instance, we see somebody lost 20lbs and they posted about it or somebody bought a brand new vehicle and shared their feelings online, this unconsciously affects our psyche, and end up getting into the cycle of thinking that we are unsuccessful and have achieved nothing in life. This also tarnishes one’s self-image ultimately leading to depression and other mental issues. The only thing to remember here is that the people posting about their success are feeling the same way about themselves.
- Cyber Bullying: This goes on without saying and it is very obvious now that everyone is forced to be online thanks to the pandemic but Facebook users have experienced most cyberbullying. Private messages with threats and negative talk are usually how most people experience it, unfortunately, it is not just limited to it, and hate speech and derogatory comments is another way by which people bully others online and if that was not enough, threatening images and texts are usually posted onto victim’s profile and what Facebook is doing against it? Nothing. One can try to report such people but chances are they won’t be banned and will simply create a new profile to continue to do the same.
- FOMO: Never have this been a case in the entire history of humanity but with the rise of social media platforms, fear of missing out or FOMO has become a real thing. According to expert psychologists, once our basic needs such as food, shelter, and income are met social interaction ranks top in the hierarchy of needs and Facebook provides just that. However, it is still not the real thing as meeting someone in person and this cycle makes them stick to their phones all the time. The fear here is that what if they missed an important message from someone or perhaps they miss out on an upcoming event, this idea of missing out causes anxiety in many people if they are not using social media and this slowly results in depression.
- Virtual Identity: Just like the previous point, never before humans had to act differently unless they were involved in special assignments. Facebook allows you to roleplay an ideal version of yourself, in which one is better than everyone and never does anything wrong but the reality is that all of this is fantasy. Living a dual life has never served anyone and when it is done constantly and no benefits are seen of it, it alters one’s perspective of life which leads them to develop depression.
In the end, Facebook has become just like a quicksand trap, it doesn’t matter if you are barely in it or completely submerged in it, it will continue to engulf you the more you try to resist it. While experts claim to limit the usage, but it only takes one bad day to cross the set limit, continuing the cycle, and the only way to stop its ill effects is to simply stop using it altogether. Sure you might miss out on people’s birthday but own mental health is far more precious.