According to some estimates, 1 in 20 individuals in the United States suffers from depression at some point in their lifetime. In fact, more than 80% of people who experience symptoms of depression don’t receive any specific treatment while the number of diagnosed cases increases* by 20% each year. Causes of depression are numerous and range from illness, abuse, genetics, medications, substance abuse, and so on. Many factors contribute to depression and its severity, and the latest study shows Facebook experiences belong to this category as well.
Facebook and Depression
Everyone has Facebook nowadays; we use it to post updates about our lives and interests, links, photos, and to connect with our friends and family. However, it is impossible not to notice the trend of online abuse, which is why increasing* number of users have bad experiences on Facebook and other social media networks.
Samantha Rosenthal and a team of scientists at the Brown University conducted a unique study of young adults to examine whether negative Facebook experiences were independently associated with depressive symptoms. For the purpose of the research, scientists enrolled 264 young adults and measured negative experiences by type such as meanness, unwanted contact, misunderstandings, bullying, and so on.
Results of the first study of this kind were published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, and they showed that negative Facebook experience was strongly associated with depressive symptoms. These findings support the notion that online interactions on social media networks have significant consequences on the mental health of users.
The results showed that 82% of a total number of participants reported at least one negative Facebook experience since they started using it, while 63% reported four or more negative experiences during their young lifetime. Additionally, 24% reported moderate-to-severe levels of depressive symptoms.
What makes this study different and unique is the fact it measured the link between this serious condition and Facebook experiences by the severity and nature of negative interpersonal involvement. Other studies primarily focused on the amount of time spent on social media or general tone of items in the news feeds, rather than a person’s experience when using them.
The lead author explains that it is highly significant to take interactions on social media websites more seriously and to stop assuming they don’t have a big impact on mental health because it’s a virtual experience as opposed to an in-person communication.
Seeing How Others are Happy, Contributes to Depression
The Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology published an interesting study which could also explain why Facebook contributes to depression. The research found that making Facebook social comparisons mediates the link between time spent on this social media network and depressive symptoms. Although the results show that time spent on Facebook does play a role, the primary culprit why depressive symptoms and this platform go hand in hand is a well-known “phenomenon” – social comparison.
Scientists explained that although the website doesn’t cause depression, depressed feelings have a lot to do with the fact we compare ourselves to family and friends whose posts we see on the News Feed on a daily basis.
Facebook has a lot to do with depressive symptoms in many ways. The latest study showed that negative experiences have a significant impact on the emotional and mental health of an individual. Bullying and abuse are quite frequent on Facebook and just because they happen online it doesn’t mean they don’t have a big impact on a person’s mental well-being, according to the lead author. Another reason why the platform contributes to symptoms of depression is that we tend to compare ourselves to others. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t use Facebook; it is necessary to be more cautious and report abuse to both Facebook and people you know.