The Weekly Read

Friday 29 August 2014

Facebook and depression: An unhappy connection?

The latest of our entries in an Irish Independent student journalist competition, in association with Campus.ie

SINCE its creation, Facebook has proved to be a phenomenon the psychology world has yet to fully to figure out, writes Zofia Domaracka

Facebook has been a tool for promoting positive campaigns but it’s also had a negative effect on its users. New studies show it can even be a causing factor in depression.

Excessive use of Facebook can lead to feelings of loneliness and lower self-esteem, according to a joint study by Berlin’s Humboldt University and the Darmstadt’s Technical University.

Facebook encourages us to be more sociable but in fact many over-users fell ‘down’ when scanning through the profiles of their ‘friends’.

Studies show that spending too much time surfing Facebook lead to feelings of exclusion rather than inclusion in social groups. Over-users become more isolated as they are submerged in their Facebook lives.

The German research, led by Dr. Hanna Krasnova, conducted two studies with 600 Facebook users.  The results show that Facebook can stir up feelings of intense envy and negatively impact our life satisfaction.

Around 36% of those tested said they ‘sometimes to very often’ felt frustrated when looking through Facebook.

They envied the holidays their friends went on, the lifestyles they led or even kept track of the amount of virtual birthday wishes and ‘likes’ others received in comparison to them.

In face-to-face relationships envy is generally fuelled by measurable success, on Facebook users are envious of even the smallest of things – a better profile picture, more photos from nights out.

We often feel that prick of jealousy when seeing a friend from class who was an ugly duckling now looking like a super model. The guy from your course working for a major firm while you struggle to make ends meet.

We use Facebook as a measuring tool to interpret how successful we have been compared to others more than we use it to socialise with them - making this the perfect medium for harvesting insecurities.

What is most dangerous is that there is no getting away from it unless we delete our account. For the more vulnerable of us this can become a destructive force to reckon with.

Dr. Hanna Krasnova said in her report “by and large, online social networks allow users unprecedented access to information on relevant others — insights that would be much more difficult to obtain offline.

Envy-inducing information is considerably less visible offline. In a world without social media, we would only be subject to our acquaintances’ tantalizing vacation pictures if they were close friends and sitting down for a cup of coffee. “

Online we cannot get away from that. Over 70% of those tested felt envy in real life, only about 20% while using Facebook. However, how can we say this number will not rise with years to come?

Perhaps we should learn to control our Facebook jealousy before this envy-frenzy spins out of control. But with the average user checking their Facebook at least once a day and having on average 130 friends it might be harder than we think.

Zofia Domaracka is a Journalism student at DCU

 

If you’re a student who can write concise, topical stories and is deeply engaged in student life, join the Contributors’ Competition and your stories could be published on Ireland’s most popular news website, Independent.ie, this semester.

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