No Surprise Here: Too Much Facebook is Bad For You

 

Spending too much time on Facebook keeps you from interacting with family and friends and encourages you to set aside your responsibilities. Now research shows that it also contributes to depression.

According to Forbes, depression is just one of the potential mental health consequences of spending too much time on Mark Zukerbergr’s brain child. Other issues include low self esteem and feelings of jealousy.

Researchers from the University of Houston discovered that these issues are triggered by comparing yourself to your Facebook friends. In a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, they identified “social comparison” as the factor that makes you feel jealous, upset, or depressed when you see a friend’s vacation photos, perfect looking family, new home or car, or anything else that makes his or her life seem better than yours. However, this social comparison effect was only evident in men.

When the researchers dug a little deeper, they found that women are affected, too, when they looked specifically at people who spend a large amount of time on Facebook. Ironically, both upward and downward comparisons made study participants more likely to experience depressive symptoms. That means that even seeing people who appear to have worse lives than themselves had a negative impact on the heavy Facebook users.

This link isn’t a new one, as studies showing a relationship between Internet use and negative feelings date back to 1998. According to the New Yorker, that’s when a study by a Carnegie Mellon University researcher found that people who were online frequently were more likely to feel lonely and depressed. A review of other studies, cited in the New Yorker article, ruled out the chance that people who go on Facebook are more depressed and lonely in general than those who don’t.

It’s easy to access Facebook and go to other online sites from virtually anywhere with a smart phone or tablet with wireless service. If you catch yourself doing too many comparisons with your online friends or notice negative effects from Facebook use, here’s how to lessen the negativity:

Limit the time you spend on Facebook each day

You might be surprised at how much time you spend on Facebook if you track it for a few days. Decide on a reasonable limit and stick to it. Limit your time and also the periods during the day that you use your allotted time. For example, stay off of Facebook at work, at restaurants, and during dedicated family time with your partner and children. Once you use up your time, don’t allow yourself to go back to Facebook until the next day.

Don’t dwell on what others post

If you’re reading about your friends or family members and feel jealousy or other negative emotions welling up, move on to other posts or get off Facebook entirely. Social media should be a fun way to connect with others. Research shows that comparisons are the main trigger for negative mental consequences. Be aware of this and catch yourself when you use Facebook in an unhealthy way.

Take a complete break from Facebook

It may be hard to remember a time when you existed without Facebook, but depending on your age, that might be the major part of your life. If you’re spending too much time online or are noticing negative effects from using Facebook, go cold turkey for a couple of days or even a week. If you find that you can’t stay away from the screen, you might have a Facebook addiction. Browsing the site gives you intermittent reinforcement. This hooks some people in a way that’s similar to gambling addiction. If you can’t stay away from Facebook even when you want to stop, talk to a counselor to see if your use has crossed over into addiction.