In a piece of news that is sure to surprise almost no one, apparently our over-reliance on social media is…bad. The compare-and-despair game—which Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like clearly promote for pretty much everyone who uses them—simply isn’t good for us. It’s not helping our mental health, our sanity, our relationships or our self esteem. It can even cause depression, according to some experts who have creatively dubbed the phenomenon “Facebook depression.” And teenagers may be feeling it even worse than adults are.
The news channel CBS7 decided to ask a bunch of adolescents for more details about the impact of social media on their overall happiness and well-being. “How does it make you feel whenever you get likes on your pictures?” CBS 7 asked a bunch of teens. “It makes us feel happy,” they responded. But when the channel asked, “What if you were to post a picture and you got only two likes?” The kids weren’t so sanguine, answering: “I would delete it and re-post it and tag more hashtags.”
Of course, that weird little compulsion to get more “likes” on Facebook or Instagram might seem like a relatively harmless quest for social approval, but needing it too much—becoming “addicted” or dependent on it—can become incredibly painful and insidious for adults as well as teens. As one woman explains to CBS7: “[We] feel bad because [we]see someone getting married and having a baby, and say ‘I can’t find anyone to go on a date with.’ So we begin comparing ourselves to the highlights of other people lives.”
A Jumbled Perspective
That comparison game is super-painful, and I know from experience because I do it all the time. It’s one of my worst habits and most miserable emotional patterns. It’s driven by insecurity, jealousy and good old fashioned FOMO (fear of missing out) and though I know I’m not alone in it, I also know that sometimes it absolutely feels like I am. When I’m down the rabbit-hole of social media ick, I can’t help but start questioning myself: “Why don’t I have that house, that husband, that job, that life? What did I do ‘wrong’?” I start to forget all the great things I have and the cool things I’ve done. All I can focus on is what I think is missing.
In a turn for the ridiculous, I sometimes even compare my comparison levels with other people’s, wondering if everyone else gets stricken with such profound feelings of lack when they compare their lives to randos from high school and old friends from college. I might think no, but studies like that CBS7 story seem to indicate yes.
What’s definitely true, at least for most of us: Too much precious time spent feeding a social media “addiction” isn’t doing anything to boost our overall mental health. Step away from the screen, for a while at least; we’ll all probably be happier for it in the end.