I'm a behavior scientist, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional and Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Florida. I have extensive experience working with substance abuse and mental illness. I have spent many years working with both the chronically mentally ill and individuals struggling with everyday problems. I currently serve as the Director of Mental Health for a county jail and supervisor for interns seeking licensure in the state of Florida. Last week I was talking to a friend who said she was taking a hiatus from social media for awhile. At first this surprised me because she has such a strong presence on social media, but then she explained to me her reasons.
On social media she is seeing many of her friends moving forward in their careers, getting married, having children and living these apparently wonderful lives, while she herself feels rather stuck in comparison.
This feeling of inadequacy and maybe even a bit of sadness she is experiencing is something very common when it comes to social media. It’s even been giving the name, “facebook depression”.
Social media encourages us to share more and more of our lives and become less private, creating what is called context collapse.
We all have different sides of ourselves. We may act one way at work, another at home, and yet another when we are out with our closest friends or having a night out on the town.
On social media sites like Facebook, we have what is called context collapse, which is when all of our different sides actually come together. However, we know that some people have gotten fired when one part of their life collided with or conflicted with another part of their life (i.e., your boss finding out something you do in your free time goes against their ethical policy). I even know someone who lost her job because the day she called into work, it was discovered on Facebook that she was actually at the beach with her lover.
Because of this context collapse, people tend to present themselves in social media in ways that are acceptable in all contexts (i.e., work, friends, family). Because the social norm is to be your perfect self, we all tend to present our perfect selves on facebook, which in turn leads to us all making each other feel inadequate and sometimes even depressed with our real lives. We start having “the grass is greener on the other side” syndrome.
We constantly see people in disgustingly happy relationships, out having fun, getting married, having kids, getting raises, going on dream vacations, etc. We start thinking that their lives are always exciting, awesome and perfect. We start thinking that we are missing out on something and that our lives suck in comparison.
It’s this social comparison of our everyday lives with our friends highlight moments that can create jealousy and depression in some people. We create a distorted view of their lives where they are always beautiful, happy and succeeding while we in comparison are going through the ups and downs of normal life.
We see people in relationships always smiling and traveling on social media and we awesome that they have no problems, never fight and are the luckiest two people on earth, when in reality they are likely experiencing the same highs and lows, trials and tribulations of a normal relationship. We romanticize their lives and relationships.
Of course not everyone is impacted the same way. Some of us don’t care too much about what our friends post. Other of us are actually happy to see our friends doing great, but still, there are some of us who are more suceptible to “facebook depression” such as those of us who are already struggling with depression.
It’s especially important if you are prone to depression to be aware of how spending too much time on social media comparing yourself to your friends and others can potentially increase your risk for depression. If that’s the case, remember to put everything into perspective and remember that what we often see on social media are the highlights of people lives. People don’t often post the negative, boring or difficult part of their lives, but some do.
If you find yourself feeling depressed, jealous or unhappy when looking at other people’s lives on social media, then it may be time for you to take a hiatus for awhile. Social media is meant to bring us closer but often it just makes us feel more separated. Take a break from social media if need be. Go outside, be in the moment and enjoy YOUR life
Theodore Roosevelt’s belief that “Comparison is the thief of joy.”