This morning I was delighted to be asked to join Alfie Joey and Anna Foster for their Breakfast program (BBC Newcastle) to discuss a recent BBC report showcasing that Facebook use has been proven
to cause depression.
Of course, this isn’t the first study in this arena.
Back in 2014, I recall writing a piece following research on how computers were impacting human behaviour – in that study, it showed that browsing Facebook was associated with ‘lower life satisfaction’ and a decline in mood – but interestingly, browsing the internet generally, didn’t have the same negative impact.
The negative impact was found to be unique to Facebook use.
Whilst Facebook is still the most popular social network – with more than 1 billion people logging in daily – people aren’t actually using Facebook to be ‘social’. Only around 9% of Facebook users’ activities involve communicating with others. The ‘social’ aspect is therefore really low – with the majority of people either posting random pieces of content or passively consuming content by spending the majority of time browsing and scrolling through feeds.
Two key aspects associated with decline in mood and lower life satisfaction were identified in all three studies:
1) When presented with looking in at other people’s perceived perfect lives – photos of fabulous holidays, friends having a fun, date nights, weddings, achievements – rather than feeling good for your friends, you can start to become envious – you and your life may start to feel inadequate, and this in turn leads to a decline in your mood.
2) Then there’s the other aspect – the time that you spend. You start to feel bad about being under productive; remorse sets in about wasting your time looking at what’s going on in others’ lives. You question why you do it – how sad must you be to spend so much time looking at other peoples’ lives. No life of your own… etc etc – and so the self-fulfilling negative cycle continues.
But… here’s the good news:
Simply being aware of the above two points can make all the difference to how you let your Facebook activity impact you. Knowing that your time on the channel may have a negative impact helps to eradicate those negative feelings.
So to take action and to keep that negativity at bay…
1) Be aware. Understand that too much browsing is going to potentially decline your mood. Catch yourself if you start to feel inadequate, dull or sad – and get off the channel quickly. Phone a friend, speak to your family – do something nourishing and truly social.
2) Limit the mindless browsing. Give yourself a limited time to check up on your social activity – this way, if you invite a bit of discipline into how much time you spend on the channels, you won’t give yourself a hard time for spending an hour being unproductive. Instead, limit your time to a 10 minute catch up – and pat yourself on the back when you log out and get back to other things.
3) Don’t make social comparisons with others on your Facebook feed. The majority of posts made are ‘hero’ posts – people sharing the best moments, celebrations, happy times. It’s rare people post about their fears or insecurities – so stay realistic and see it for what it is.
4) Be truly social on social – social channels aren’t all bad, they can be brilliant for networking, for business and for support. There are loads of Facebook Groups that are really useful, that are fabulous communities for people to come together to be supportive of one another. They’re not just a platform where people post the best times of their lives – but really useful social networks. Check out local groups in your area – and tune into ones that you’re interested in – there are mum’s groups, craft groups, support groups – you name it, there’s a community.
5) Get social offline. And of course – make the majority of your social activity, truly social. Get offline and get personable. Pick up your phone and don’t head for the keyboard to text – but instead make a call, have a giggle with friends, or just chat about how you’re doing – how they’re doing. Just be social. We’re social animals, we need that connectivity.
So if your social activity is making you ‘low’ – remember these 5 simple points, understand that it’s normal to feel bad and why – and remember all the great stuff that’s good about your life.
Just because you’re not publishing it on Facebook doesn’t mean it’s not a beautiful, worthy, nourishing and fulfilling moment. Enjoy…the joy this Christmas.
Michelle Carvill, best selling business author, speaker, founder and Director at Carvill - the social media marketing agency. For information about how the team at Carvill can help you - simply get in touch or visit our website for more information.