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Published:March 29th, 2011 16:17 EST
Does Facebook Make Me Depressed?

Does Facebook Make Me Depressed?

By Donna Cavanagh

Social Media gets blamed for everything from the collapse of society`s moral fiber to the recent unrest in the Middle East.  Okay, I concede the unrest in the Middle East because it was Facebook and Twitter that helped the revolutionary groups to organize.  But if you listen to religious and health experts, you would think that social media is responsible for obesity, drug use, violence and promiscuity among other vices.  However, this week, social media got a thumbs up from the usually-critical experts because some believe Facebook might help to identify depression especially in teens. 

I know depression is a serious issue and I don`t want to make light of it, but as someone who is a few years beyond her teens, I would like to explore the possibility that Facebook does not identify depression for post-adolescents but rather spurs it on.

Let`s start by saying that according to a recent study, the 55-and-older crowd, especially women, is the fastest growing demographic on Facebook. Those, who once turned their noses up at social media, are joining by leaps and bounds. Yes, the AARP crowd, and also the 35-to 50-year-old demographic to which I belong, is now embracing Facebook and Twitter as a way to promote their businesses and connect with family and old friends.
While this sounds lovely, I can see how depression can begin. First, you get excited because you can contact old school friends.  You are thrilled when that first connection takes place. You might find your old homeroom buddy or perhaps the boyfriend who threw you over for the hot chick in the dorm next to yours.  Then, you see his picture and you can become depressed for one of two reasons. First, he still looks good, and you were hoping that he would have gone bald and developed a beer gut that would make him a candidate for the Biggest Loser TV show.  The second reason for depression is also that he has lost his hair and developed a beer gut, which on the surface makes you feel good, until you realize that if he looks that way, you might be heading in that direction too since you are the same age. And so, it seems to me that it is the truth of Facebook that can trigger depression. 

Let`s face it. We all picture our old friends as they looked when we knew them no matter how many years have passed. They imagine us the same way.  With Facebook, the delusion dies, and we all see each other as we truly are now except, of course, those who have opted for plastic surgery.

Another reason for depression on Facebook:  The freaking games.  How many games must we play to develop and maintain Facebook friendships? For the first few years, I ignored the games. I didn`t participate in the Mafia Wars or Farmville or Bejeweled. No, I was unfeeling and cold, and my sparse friends` list reflected my aloof attitude. When I would get an invitation, I would hit ignore, and go on my merry way.

But this year, I was guilted by an old school mate who apparently can adjust to what I look like now and still accepts me. He asked me to play the newest Facebook game, Cityville, so he could get the tools he needed to build his homes in his city. I joined just as a favor. Now, I am addicted. Now, I am the one who canvasses Facebook in search of friends who will give me energy and goods to build my stupid metropolis. I am the one, who on her lunch break, goes to the imaginary park in Cityville instead of the real one across the street from my real office.  So, I have to admit that Facebook, and the subsequent lack of sunshine, can make me depressed. 

Okay, I might have exaggerated the depression thing a bit.  In truth, Facebook and Twitter have changed my life. I have met people from all over the world through social media.  And I have learned many lessons in dealing with people online.  I have learned that some people use Facebook and Twitter for friendship, some use social media to form business contacts and still others use it as a means to ask me to have hot wild sex.  You know, now that I think about it, Facebook doesn`t depress me at all.

The 55-and-older crowd is the fastest-growing age group on Facebook, increasing by 35 percent in the past six months.,0,3601.story