We are now able to link to the world around us with the click of a button. But…..not everything that glitters is gold. Studies have shown that social media sites, such as Facebook, may be linked to depressive symptoms. According to a study performed by Mai-Ly Steers (a University of Houston (UH) researcher), the same outlets that connect us with the outside world may also be disconnecting us.
The study titled "Seeing Everyone Else's Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms", explores social comparisons within online social networking settings. Steers emphasizes that “One danger is that Facebook often gives us information about our friends that we are not normally privy to, which gives us even more opportunities to socially compare. If we're comparing ourselves to our friends' 'highlight reels,' this may lead us to think their lives are better than they actually are and conversely, make us feel worse about our own lives."
Online social environments can be breeding grounds for feelings of seclusion, especially for individuals who are already at risk to depressive symptoms. In reference to the findings of the study Steers adds, "It doesn't mean Facebook causes depression, but that depressed feelings and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand in hand". It is through studies such as this that we can better understand how to better adapt to the ever-changing world around us.
In an age of information technology, how do we remain connected AND mentally well? How do we prevent becoming overwhelmed? Suggested ways include:
Reduce stress by redirecting your focus. This may include reading a book, working out and partaking in other activities/hobbies which bring you joy.
Reduce your time on social media. Assessing your use of social media will determine if you need to unplug. Give yourself designated times to scroll for leisure. Remember, the goal is to restructure, not eliminate.
Rely on your network. Connect with friends and community outside of social media. Sometimes you need to see someone face to face to have actual interactions outside of virtual reality.
In addition to digital detoxing, seeking professional guidance is also effective. Here at DRT Behavioral we offer services and resources to help you effectively manage your mental and emotional health. Should you ever feel that social media is causing you stress, our staff is available to assist you.