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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Can Facebook Make Us More Depressed?

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 29th 2013

social media The research is mixed. Some say Facebook provides an environment to make numerous connections and provides uplifting information. Not too long ago I wrote a piece that was in reaction to The Atlantic’s article questioning if Facebook is making us lonelier. I don’t think there’s any one answer, it depends on the person, but one thing that I’ve been discovering lately is that if someone is depressed, Facebook can make them more depressed. 

Joanna is a 27 year old woman working in the entertainment industry and has struggled with depression off and on since she was 13 years old. Recently she came in to see me and was clearly depressed. She had lost her motivation to do things that she was interested and gave her pleasure and began to isolate from friends and family more. One of the issues she was struggling with besides not being happy in life was her biological clock and not being in a relationship yet. 

In order to get her mind off of things she scours Facebook throughout the day. 

What she finds on there are stories of her friends and acquaintances getting engaged, having kids and going on wonderful trips. 

“Everyone seems so happy except me,” she thinks.

A hallmark of depression is an overactive comparing mind, usually seeing other people around her and interpreting that they are all happy and you’re the single depressed person. This leads to thoughts of “What’s wrong with me,” or “I’ll never be happy like that couple walking by window shopping, so carefree” 

But Facebook amplifies that so much more. Hardly ever do people put the difficulties or stress in their relationship online for everyone to see. They only show the highlights of what may be perceived as good. 

When dealing with depression, we have to continue to have an awareness of the skewed information that is posted on personal social media sites. Then pile on the skewed comparing mind and negativity bias that comes along with depression and you have a recipe for digging yourself in a hole. 

This isn’t meant to sentence Facebook, it has many wonderful attributes and can be a lot of fun. It’s just to bring awareness to the potential negative effect it can have on someone who is already depressed. 

With this awareness we can have better perspective. 

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 

 

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    Facebook can make us more depressed - Darlene - May 1st 2013

    If only FB could come with a warning; "if already depressed, please proceed with caution."  I can certainly see where depression could be reinforced on FB. For someone who has the negative thought patterns of depression, comparing one's own life to seemingly interesting and active people, could set him/her up to feel inferior. As Maggie said, if no one responds to your comments you may very well feel that people don't care what you have to say which would only serve to make you feel more isolated. Maggie perhaps you could try reaching out to a couple of your FB friends by making a short conversation with them; it seems like many of us just post sayings, memes or one liners that may not evoke a response from a friend, whereas a direct comment or question to someone would illicit a response. :)

    Ya, FB can be a downer - maggie - Apr 29th 2013

    When you are feeling down you can see things relatives have posted and if you didn't happen to be invited to the event they had you feel left out, rejected, and lonely. And sometimes coming on - no one has sent a message or left a comment and it makes one wonder if anyone cares about them. I've considered leaving the site because of those reasons.

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