The DARKER side of Social Media

Cruise

Last night I had the most FABULOUS date! He was a true gentleman. He opened doors, pulled out my chair at the 5-star restaurant he took me to, spoke intelligently, and had really good hygiene, to boot!  We talked about going on a luxury cruise together, and maybe doing some traveling around the world. Luckily I have been working out like crazy and using a new miracle wrinkle cream so the pounds–and wrinkles—have become a thing of the past!

Well I have to cut this post short because it is time for my laughing-yoga-with-a-goat session, and then on to my wild greens lunch—which I foraged myself alla Euell Gibbons.

OH WAIT—none of that is exactly true! Or rather a few major details might have been left out. Such as I get extremely seasick and would rather camp out in the wild (my LEAST favorite activity in the world) than ever get on a boat again. The last Mr. Clean-cut Gentleman, showed up in cargo shorts, flip flops, dirty fingernails and took me to a dimly lit bar where the beers were on sale. And I buy my greens at the local health food store.

Oh, and this photo? It’s not really of me (surprise!) and I haven’t found that perfect miracle diet or wrinkle cream yet—because THEY DON’T EXIST!

Friends, there is a phenomenon called “Facebook Depression”, although it can be generalized to all social network site usage. I recently came across a fascinating article published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, where researchers did a meta-analysis of all articles published on the connection between a negative mood and social media exposure. They looked at time spent on social media sites; frequency of checking social media sites, and social comparison, a theory put forth in 1954 by social psychologist Leon Festinger. Social Comparison Theory says that we humans have an innate drive to evaluate ourselves based on a comparison with others. Of course there is a lot more to this theory, but the interesting finding the present study, was that “upward” social comparison had the greatest effect on producing a negative mood—even more so than generally comparing our lives to social media posts, the amount of timewe spend on social media, or the frequencywith which we check our social media throughout the day.

In other words—when we read a post like the one I began with, and then compare the reality of our own NORMAL lives to posts that make it appear there really issuch a thing as the PERFECT life—we are more like to get depressed.

The solution is not to swear off of social media—in fact, social media sites do a lot of good when used consciously. We can learn things, get ideas, stay in touch with friends and family we normally wouldn’t see in person that often, and even share announcements that others might be interested in.  However, when it comes to posts that push the FANTASY of a perfect life—don’t buy it, and don’t allow yourself to compare your own life to those posts. Most people DON’T post the things that go wrong in a normal human life—and we ALL have various ups and downs; challenges and victories. The key is to cherish our OWN beautifully imperfect lives, each and every day. The very fact that we are here, alive, and in full human attire—is perhaps the finest gift of all.

Reference:

Yoon, S., Kleinman, M., Mertz, J. & Brannick, M. (2019). Is social network site usage related to depression? A Meta-analysis of Facebook-depression relations. Journal of Affective Disorders, v.248, pp.65-72.

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