Social media only provides a false sense of socialization, leads to depression
It’s 2013, and clicking “Like” on Facebook has officially become one of society’s most ironic acts.
According to a recent study conducted by the University of Michigan, the more frequently a person checked Facebook, the more likely they were to feel unsatisfied about their own lives.
On paper, Facebook seems like it would serve as quite the opposite of what it’s become. It was introduced to the public in 2006 as a tool that could help break down the barriers of long-distance relationships between family members, couples and old college roommates. Sharing photos with family across the country had never been easier, and Facebook was well-received as a website with pure intentions.
Seven short years later, it’s frequently abused to publicize one’s own social happenings, more often than not diminishing the happenings of others in the process.
In the study performed by UM, 82 Facebook users were asked to take a survey that measured their overall life satisfaction every day for two weeks. The survey also asked the users how much they had used Facebook that day. Researchers found that overall life satisfaction steadily declined for frequent Facebook users over the course of the study.
The users that reported no changes, or an increase, in life satisfaction were the ones that engaged in the highest frequency of face-to-face interactions.
For a medium that offers many promising advantages, it’s tough to see it as something that would provide anything but benefits to its users. However, a single yet defining feature of Facebook has been exploited to the detriment of the site as a whole.
What initially separated Facebook from other social network sites of its time was the complete lack of privacy between friends. Interactions that you’d otherwise remain perfectly oblivious to are plastered across your news feed — in other words, Facebook literally immerses its users in the social interactions of others.
While this may not have been a faulty feature in 2006, Facebook is now a tool that is easy to abuse.
Considering the majority of today’s social media content, it’s no wonder that the study’s participants felt a lack of satisfaction with their lives after using Facebook. Interactions which users are surrounded by are, generally speaking, favorable to the users involved. More honestly, they’re meticulously engineered by the users involved to exhibit their wittiest, sharpest and most clever selves to the public domain.
As a Facebook user, you’re exposed to the best version a person can produce of themselves. Postings of a dwindling GPA or a bad breakup are nowhere to be seen. According to Facebook, these things don’t exist.
When these things seem to be all but plaguing your life, it’s tough to see Facebook not simply as a medium for communication, but as a collection of evidence that proves you’re worse off than most.
Numerous other studies confirm the findings of the UM experiment. Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University-Dominguez Hills, conducted a study in 2011 that displayed a higher risk of antisocial behavior and paranoia development among frequent Facebook users, particularly within young adults.
At Edinberg Napier University, Kathy Charles released the findings of her study regarding Facebook usage and psychological disorders in 2011, discovering that more than 50 percent of the 200 people she interviewed felt a general, unspecified stress in relation to the website. Twelve percent of the users reported an active sense of anxiety when using Facebook.
Charles also found a high prevalence of stress centered on the fear of missing out on published happenings.
Fear of missing out is becoming an increasingly common occurrence among college students. It’s the reason why these websites have become so simultaneously self-destructive and addictive. It’s also why we can’t stop incessantly checking our mobile devices for the latest social updates, even if it’s in the middle of doing something we’re enjoying.
When using social media, it’s important to remember that it’s a tool used to enhance communication, not replace it altogether.
“A huge determinant of developing distress related to social media is how the media is being used,” says Thomandra Sam, psychologist and outreach coordinator at UH’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center. “Using social media in lieu of healthy social interaction rather than as a supplement to healthy social interactions is often when the distress begins. It’s important to be able to disengage from the cyberworld and truly connect and enjoy the living world around you.”
As college students, we’ve made the bold decision to take on a role that’s plenty stressful on its own. Throw in work, relationships and rent into the mix and you’ve got yourself a lifestyle that can’t afford much more anxiety. It’s important to alleviate your personal stress and anxiety in any way that you can, as well as to recognize that stepping back every now and then from the screen might show you that things are simply better than they seem when pixelated.
CAPS offers services to students that can aid in a variety of ways, focusing on social interactions, stress management and other areas of difficulty. They can be reached at (713) 743-5454 and are located on the second floor of the Student Services Center 1.
Opinion columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]