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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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A New Cause of Depression

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 15th 2011

A New Cause of DepressionDr. Gwenn O'Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician, as well as other health professionals and researchers, are warning that Facebook and other social media are a source of grief for many vulnerable teenagers. Facebook has become the new place for kids to "hang out," much like the street corners and shopping malls of our time as kids. The difference is that what kids project on Facebook is an unrealistic, idealized view of what is happening with them. This idealized portrayal of who they are shows up in photographs and in the kinds of things they write. There is a place for people to press the "like" button on the Facebook page, this encourages a strong sense of competitiveness in popularity and the need for approval.

Added to the problems kids experience with this is that Facebook has become a vehicle for cyberbullying, sexting and other mean-spirited expressions of disapproval. All of this encourages kids to make self comparisons and often results in feeling they don't measure up. Because it's the internet, rather than at school or the neighborhood, feelings become even more exaggerated than in real life.


In my opinion, it is necessary to expand these warnings to include adults as well as kids. Several people have told me that it's difficult not to compare the number of friends they have as compared to others. Even the cyber games on Facebook and who gets invited and who doesn't, feeds into feelings of low self esteem and depression.

How to cope:

It's not enough to state this problem without discussing what can be done about reducing feelings of worthlessness due to social media.

With regard to kids, it's important for parents to ask questions about what's happening, particularly with regard to any problems arising on Facebook. It's important to help kids see how exaggerated and unrealistic things can be on that site. Actually, it's necessary for parents to discuss all the risks that lurk on the Internet, including falling prey to sexual predators and being aware of the dangers of cyberbullying and sexting.

My advice for adults is to stop Facebook involvement if it has become an unhappy and depressing pursuit. Involvement with real people in the real world is what is therapeutic. If psychotherapy is needed to gain help with depression then, that's a step that should be taken. Even without therapy, why continue doing something that is a source of misery?

I know many people who have been and continue to be hurt by social media. Adults are also capable of bullying and meanness; it's not just kids.

What are your experiences and comments about this?

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Facebook Frenzy - Niquedoodle - Apr 20th 2011

This year I gave Facebook up for Lent!  Yup,that's 40 days of no contact in the fantasy world of fb; and OMG! The withdrawl was killer. I would see my 15 yr old or my hubby perusing their pages and wanted to peek over their shoulder so badly.  Alas, I have broken down only once or twice, only to be reminded by my son to get off! God love him!  I have to say, my life has actually been better!  No miffed conversations with neighbors who tout their children's giftedness or boast of their vacations to here or there. No being reminded of how many beautiful young women are friended to my husband, or his coy responses to their innane posts. No getting up in the morning only to see what's new in fb-land (just for a few minutes) and then winding up an hour and a half later feeling totally unproductive and lazy.  What a time sucker fb is!  I have had to fill in the blanks with reading articles about mental health such as these and hopefully I will come out of all this with some new revelation and clarity of vision.  Who knows? For now, I can't wait to get back on this Sunday!  It's a good thing I also gave up eating fast food, too! That was so much easier to do!

Facebook depression - Barbara altman - Apr 17th 2011

I too have become susceptible to facebook depression, taking myself to task for not having as many friends as I would like and for not getting the kinds or numbers of responses I would like. Sometimes I feel disconnected by falling short of expectations. I keep this in balance by nmaintaining an active social life independent of facebook and by reminding myself of my original intent in joining facebook.


online display - - Apr 16th 2011

I know that the online display of how many "friends" people have serves to feed feelings of social isolation and inadequacy. I'm usually on the receiving end. That's one of the reasons I'm not using the friends-function and made my profile invisible on this very site. This is a mental health site, not facebook, so maybe it's worth asking whether this is really a clever setup.

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