Facebook is one of the most popular social networks on planet earth. However, it has been linked to a remarkable number of undesirable mental health consequences: Depression, low self-esteem, and jealousy among users. Lately, a new study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology reveals that not only do Facebook and depressive symptoms go together, but also the facilitating factor appears to be the “Social comparison.” In other words, when people make comparisons between themselves and their friends, for instance between their dull moments and their friends “highlighted great moments”, is what associates Facebook time to depressive symptoms. So do people have to cut down on Facebook or should they just adjust their attitude toward it?
In a new study from the University of Houston, people were asked about their Facebook use, and how likely they were to make social comparisons (for example paying a lot of attention to how they do things compared with how others do things), and how often they faced depressive signs. It appeared that people who spent too much time on Facebook were predisposed to have more depressive symptoms.
The study author and doctoral candidate Mai-Ly Steers said, “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”.
Moreover, in the same study, face-to-face research on social comparison revealed that upward social comparisons (e.g., comparing yourself to someone more attractive than yourself) are more likely to make people feel worse, whereas downward comparisons (viewing someone less appealing than you) are more likely to make people feel better about themselves. People then were asked exactly how they felt when they looked at other people’s posts. It appeared that people who spent more Facebook time not only had more depressive symptoms, but that social comparison, whether upward or downward or neutral, was the facilitator.
Furthermore, according to Steers, “Although other studies have established links between depressive symptoms and Facebook, our study is the first of its kind to determine that the underlying mechanism between this association is social comparison. In other words, heavy Facebook users might be comparing themselves to their friends, which in turn, can make them feel more depressed.”
In consequence, should we close our Facebook accounts or adjust them? Are social networks turned into the territory of the anti-social?
For Steers, “You should feel good after using Facebook. However…the unintended consequence is that if you compare yourself to your Facebook friends’ ‘highlight reels,’ you may have a distorted view of their lives and feel that you don’t measure up to them, which can result in depressive symptoms. If you’re feeling bad rather than good after using Facebook excessively, it might be time to reevaluate and possibly step away from the keyboard.” She also says that people predisposed to depression may want to be conscious of the links, and keep thinking about how and when they log on to social media.
Additionally, Steers affirms Theodore Roosevelt’s belief that “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Therefore, people should try to stop making the comparisons between their boring moments and their friends’ most significant ones.