Is Facebook making you depressed?

We review a growing number of studies linking facebook usage and depression and a London Psychotherapist gives his perspective.

It’s becoming commonplace to read headlines citing studies that link Facebook with depression. A 2015 study in the USA found a link between the amount of time spent on the popular social media site and the chance of showing depressive symptoms. The purported link was “social comparison”, which if you’re a social media user yourself, you’ve no doubt experienced. Another study looked at 82 users over two weeks and found that the more social media usage, the more his or her overall well-being declined in the long term. Using a smart phone late at night, a common way that Facebook is used, has also been shown in a Norwegian study to cause sleeping difficulties.

But a 2013 study from the University of Portsmouth also found that using Facebook to reminisce can actually make you feel happier.

In practice: social media observations
Alongside studies, Psychotherapists and Counsellors are also interested in the individual experience. And clinical observations provide pointers to what might also be appearing more broadly.

In my practice, I find that discussion of the impact of social media is becoming commonplace. Clients have a variety of responses, from enjoying the connectedness, to comparisons that drive depression or paranoia, and sometimes leading to social difficulties in “real life”. I have a suspicion that there’s a link between pre-existing disposition to depression and the effect Facebook might have. I’m also curious as to whether Facebook usage can become quite compulsive: as some clients report constant “checking” that may lead to work and relationship problems.

So what should I do?
So what’s it to be? Is Facebook usage going to make you “happy” or “sad”? I’m afraid there is no easy answer and you would need to make up your own mind, based on your experience and the information available. That said, as with most lifestyle decisions, it is important to remember balance. So to that end, here are some sensible tips about using social media:

  • Be mindful about your inner experience when using social media. Notice feelings and embodied sensations. Are you scrolling mindlessly, or actively consuming (and enjoying) the content. Do you feel content and happy, or hungry and vacant.
  • What are you seeking? Is there a hit of happiness when you get a message or is your competitive nature encouraged when you hit 10 Instagram likes? In itself, perhaps that’s fine – but notice the seeking and notice when if begins to have power over you.
  • Think about boundaries: you may wish to set a time when all screens are off. Or perhaps there are rooms in the house or places in your schedule, where social isn’t allowed.

Are you concerned with your social media habits? Are you noticing addiction behaviour or is it affecting your relationships? Feel free to contact me to discuss whether therapy might help.