Sunday, June 24, 2012

Facebook and Depression: What to Know, What To Avoid

Facebook is the millennium’s new water cooler. Though virtual in its design, it serves as a way for us to catch up on the latest trends, share milestones, learn about juicy gossip, or live vicariously through the experience of others. And not only is it a way to keep up with the Joneses, but it’s a way to keep track of the Joneses.

Facebook provides us with social capital – and these valuable social experiences make us feel connected. But bear in mind that not everyone feels Facebook is an upbeat and pleasing social past time. Reading stories or viewing photos of friends’ activities could cause a user to feel left out or question the value of his or her own social status. Though Facebook can elicit warm feelings of nostalgia and connectedness, it can also spur jealousy and feelings of inadequacy too. With all these things going on, it’s wise to learn the psychological reasons for using social networking. When you understand what they are, you’ll be able to judge for yourself if Facebook is meeting the social expectations you hold.

Research reports two distinct ways people use Facebook. One is bonding with others – to reconnect with old friends and family or to explore new relationships. The other is bridging as a means of strengthening your identity. Think of bridging as a kind of network that links you to other colleagues, businesses, contacts and organizations that share your political, social and community interests, or your career or professional pursuits.

6 Tips for Using Facebook

When you live with depression, it’s important to put yourself in a positive environment. Toxic people and negative experiences only serve to worsen depressive symptoms. So, understanding the reasons why you use Facebook will help determine if this social media is a thumbs up experience – or if you should consider other social avenues.

1) Ask yourself why you’re on Facebook. Is it to bond or to bridge? Once you determine what you’re looking for – connection or networking– then you can set realistic expectations.

2) Explore your “user pattern” - or how you are using Facebook. Are you spending time too much time reading the news feeds of others? Do you only just cue into your own profile to look for connections - or do you venture beyond to connect with others? Do you leave comments? Do you invite others to respond to your wall status? How about direct messages, do you like using that feature? Do you like being in the app or game community? Are your bridging connections creating support, or are the conversations provocative, challenging or taunting?

3) Once you realize how you’re using Facebook, ask yourself what each of these activities does for you. The goal is to discover what gratifies you not only socially, but emotionally. Essentially, you’ll be cluing yourself into what Facebook activities work or don't work for you.

4) Next, redefine your Facebook experience. If it makes you feel left out to read about others' daily lives, consider editing your subscriber list. Want to have more connection? Consider direct messaging than commenting on a community level. Personalizing your social media experience will help you feel good about yourself and the others you're choosing to share your online time with. If you discover that using Facebook isn’t as valuable a tool for you, bow out. It’s just as cool to bump the trend as it is to be part of a trend.

5) Now that you know the how, what and why reasons that you use Facebook, give yourself permission to be an extrovert or an introvert. Facebook should be a place that *you* design for *your* social needs. Find your comfort self-disclosing zone and work within it.

6) Last but not least, remember to interface beyond the virtual world. Make sure you spend quality time socializing in real time with real people.


Purple Pineapple said...

I try to stay away from facebook when my mood starts a downward spiral for many of the reasons you have pointed out in this post(especially about feeling inadequate). I try (but sometimes fail)to keep my own mental health issues separate from my life on facebook because I feel it just opens me up to questions and judgement (mostly from my own family) that I'm not ready to face.Facebook can be such a good tool for connecting to family and friends, but I can definitely see how keeping in mind all these tips are VERY important! Great post! :)

Sarebear said...

Did you see my mini-meltdown happening on FB?

Yeah, cause, I need to just cut off the wholefamily thing, because it's too painful. But doing that without offending people is difficult.

S'onnie said...

About a year ago I did a massive clean out of toxic people in my life. best thing I ever did as I don't need them to make me feel bad, I can do that all on my own!

Wanda's Wings said...

I am careful what I put on facebook, but do enjoy see old friends. My daughter has been really hurt by some things on facebook so I advised her to use with care. You are right about the way it can effect depression.

Ellesar said...

I rarely use FB. I do not see it positively and I can totally see how it could exacerbate someone's depression.

For me it seems to waver dangerously close to social control under the guise of social networking! There are just too many people around who use it to bully, exclude and undermine.

Dr Vin said...

Great article Deb. Vin

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. It's interesting, the effect of FB on our lives. I posted about this a little while ago:
It's something I always wonder about - do people get the FB effect? Or is lost on society overall?

Dr. Deb said...

Thanks everyone!