How Social Media May Be Magnifying Your Depression Without You Realizing It
Like many people, I enjoy scrolling through Instagram when I'm bored, and I go on Facebook when I need something to do. I never thought social media would contribute to the depression I was already feeling while I was away at school, but it did.
I struggled during my first semester of college. I had a hard time finding my way and settling in. What didn't help was that every time I logged onto social media, I saw my classmates from high school posting photos of their new friends, boyfriends and sororities. It made me feel like I wasn't doing something right. Why was I struggling while they were living perfect lives away at school? What was I doing wrong that they weren't?
I was also posting photos of myself at school, though. I look back to September and see the pictures I shared of my artsy dorm, my orientation group and snaps of myself at parties with friends. From the outside, it must have seemed like I was having a good time as well.
I'm sure my high school classmates thought I was doing well at school. They probably saw these photos and suspected I was fine. After all, who shares photos that allude to going through a hard time?
Social media is very deceiving. Rarely do people post unfiltered photos of themselves on Instagram. We don't rant about the struggles we're experiencing on Facebook because we only want people to know about the good stuff.
I never shared photos of myself crying alone in my dorm. I didn't depict any faults in the relationship I was in. I didn't tell people when I quit the crew team due to the fact I was experiencing so much stress and anxiety. Instead, I chose to post about the fun times. I wanted people to think I was OK, even though I wasn't.
I had a terrible Halloween, and when I looked on Snapchat and saw my friends posting stories of themselves dressed up at parties and having a fun time, it made me feel even worse. There aren't any photos of myself from Halloween, despite my awesome costume. No one knew I had a sh*tty night because I chose not to vent about it. So, how could anyone know?
Jennifer Van Pelt dug into the situation of social media being linked to depression on Social Work Today:
Facebook depression, according to the AAP report, may result if, for example, young users see status updates, wall posts and photos that make them feel unpopular. Social media sites may have greater psychosocial impact on kids with low self-esteem or who are already otherwise troubled. Facebook friends' lists and status postings can have a detrimental effect when children or teens begin comparing themselves with others on Facebook and find themselves lacking.
When I began to open up about the struggles I was facing in college on my blog, some of my classmates from high school started reaching out to me, saying they were also having a hard time. I never would have expected any of those people to be struggling. Because the only contact I had with them was through social media, there was no evidence that would have led me to believe it.
In November, I made the decision to come home and finish the rest of my semester remotely. When I did come home, I took a break from Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. I didn't want to feel even worse by seeing other people having a good time at school. I chose to only have contact with my close friends and family, and doing this definitely helped me get back on the right track.
I'm majoring in communications, so social media will undoubtedly play a role in my future. However, I can choose how I want that to affect me. I try not to compare myself to others anymore based on what they decide to share on social media.
I've learned that people want to share the positive things happening to them through social media, so they clearly aren't going to want to talk about the negative things. Comparing yourself to others will obviously only make you feel worse, especially when you're already having a hard time in the first place.
Personality begins where comparison leaves off. Be unique. Be memorable. Be confident. Be proud.