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I Sure Am Glad Facebook Wasn’t Around During My Depression

This post is part 2 of 5 in the From Bipolar to Byepolar series

Facebook sometimes gets a bad rap. People claim it robs us of true relationship. Or authenticity.photo(1)

Sure, I get it, but at the same time we must step back and recognize it is pretty remarkable. For instance, I worked at a sandwich shop with a guy for only three months in 2009 and that was it. Today we live across the country from each other, yet every week or two I still comment on his life changes and philosophical musings. Then there’s the convenience, as I just put together an pen mic night at our house, which took 20 minutes to get the word out to 55 people. I shudder to think how exponentially much harder it would have been to get the word out back in 2005. Or even worse, 1995.

Facebook also gives us the opportunity for social change. We wouldn’t have seen the tremendous shift in social issues like gay marriage, and civil rights protests wouldn’t have swelled to their massive sizes if it weren’t for this online community. It gives a wide-reaching voice to anyone who has an email address and a password, and that’s extremely powerful.

Yet, even in spite of of all of this, I’d still recommend against it for any person struggling with depression. And it’s not isolated to Facebook, but it’s the poster child of our time for envy.

Don’t Be Envious

According to an independent report published in 2013, 700 college students were interviewed about the effects of Facebook use on depression, and for a moment it looked like Facebook was off the hook because the report showed no direct connection between the two. However, they did find that increased Facebook use was linked to an increase in envy, (termed “Facebook envy”), and this form of envy was linked to depression.

Thankfully, during my darkest days of depression I didn’t have a Facebook account. But in early 2006 word started to spread about a Website named Myspace. I was hooked from the moment I first logged on, and I vividly remember a friend who said to me, “well, great. I’ve been on there three months and I have 15 friends and you’ve been on there three days and have 50.” Of course I did, because it was a race to me, and I felt a rush of accomplishment when he said that.

It didn’t stop at how many friends I had, either. A day didn’t go by that I didn’t search my friends’ Top 8 lists to see where I ranked. For those who don’t know, the Top 8 was just what it sounds like, a person’s top eight friends. Every user was given the opportunity to tell the world who those people were. And if you were in the upper left corner, you were Number 1. If you were on the bottom right, you were Number 8.

So, my Myspace friends complex had more layers than a Minnesotan third grader walking home from school in February. It wasn’t just a matter of how many friends I had, but how many Top 8 lists, and even where I ranked on those lists. Oh, so I’m only Number 6 on this list? And he’s Number 4? I thought to myself. Come on, after all I’ve done! Maybe I’m not funny enough. Maybe I don’t know enough cool music. Maybe I need to get a new wardrobe. Maybe I need to completely reinvent myself.

Or maybe I just need to end it all.

Sound dramatic? The depressed person’s mind is capable of all sorts of awful, so it must be cut off at the pass.

Dressing In Our Facebook Best

With a few exceptions, everyone dresses in their Sunday best on Facebook. And of course. Since our first school picture when the photographer told us to smile (or else!) and our grandmas went “ooh” and “ahh” at the framed photo, we learned people prefer smiles to frowns.

And perhaps the most brilliant software update Facebook ever offered was the Like button. It trains us to brag on ourselves. If we want likes, we must get the good news out. Like one status I posted a few months ago, “Hey everyone, I ran a half marathon!” which racked up 125 likes and 25 “way to go!” comments. On a typical day, our news streams are flooded with “look at my cute son!” “here I am with Denzel Washington!” and “guess who is going to Ireland next month!” So it should come as no surprise when it appears we’re missing out on the adventure of life.

I advise anyone reading this to realize that Facebook isn’t real life. Profile pages are at everyone’s discretion to reveal or not reveal about a life. It’s like how a movie trailer doesn’t show the boring parts of dialogue or the scenes that aren’t all that flashy. No, they show the funniest jokes or the most intense car crashes. That makes us want to watch the movie, and we hope our Facebook profiles gets us a pass onto the adventure of life.

But for those going through a battle with depression, unfortunately, rationality is tossed out the window whenever jealousy throws a fit. So the best way to not be pulled down into its current is by walking away from the deceiver.

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