Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat: Is social media making us depressed?

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Is social media platforms like Instagram a form of inspiration or fauxspiration, and is it making us depressed?

We might have once blamed the media for our false perception of reality, but now with the rise of social media, practically anyone can have their “5 minutes of fame” and become an Internet sensation – overnight.

And sure, while taking selfies of body parts – in pretty clothes, with food, while on exotic locations – might seem harmless, we are now creating a culture of self-comparison that never really existed before, #mybreakfastlooksbetterthanyours.

We’ve moved away from comparing ourselves to the airbrushed models in magazines and now looking to social media platforms (and their array of editing features), often forgetting that these aren’t always a true representation of real life either. Now we’re left wondering whether it’s actually inspiration or fauxspiration that we’re receiving.

Thanks to those like Essena O’Neill (hoax or not) for claiming social media ‘is not real life’, we now know that the perfectly positioned photo of your abs is actually the outcome of 100 very similar photos and a day of not eating – which we now all feel way better for knowing.

But it’s not just these “models and celebrities” that we’re concerned about. We’re worried about us. You know, is social media making you and I depressed?

A study from the researchers at Pace University has answered the question, revealing that frequent use of Instagram is linked to symptoms of depression and negative comparisons with other people on the network. Similarly, a study out of Germany found that people who passively follow others are more likely to have envy and resentment towards them.

Consultant psychologist and hypnotherapist, Kellee Waters, agrees that social media is having a negative affect on our health.

“Research consistently shows that the longer (more time per day) someone spends on social media, the more depressed and anxious they feel and the worse they feel about themselves as a person (lower self-esteem, body-perception, self and social comparisons).

“Instagram has been touted as the ‘frenemy’ social media in that people are ‘social friends’ with accounts of lives they want, things they want and things that they feel are missing in their lives. There’s also a huge amount of pressure to take the right picture, at the right place, with the right outfit, with the right filter in order to create a digital identity that others will like and keep liking and following.”

Kellee explains that those on Instagram are idealising their lives by filtering and curating photos to falsely present a distorted perception of happiness. And as a result increasing the risk of depression, self-loathing, envy and unrealistic expectations.

She believes that just like Essena O’Neill stated, it becomes an obsession, constantly thinking about how to make yourself and your life appear a certain way that is not real, just to be liked by people you don’t even know. Checking your phone to see how many people have liked and commented becomes the biggest part of your day.

“For teens, much of the research is showing that it is leading to more depression, suicidal ideations, social comparison and eating disorders than ever before,” says Kellee.

While Instagram might not be going anywhere soon, how can we play it safe when scrolling through the never-ending feed?

Kellee has 7 keys to good mental health and social media:

1. Cap the time you are on it (this definitely includes your children/teens) – the less you are on it, the more positive and engaged you are with the real world – 30min to 1hr max.

2. Have social media free days – this will help you (and your kids) to realise that you can live without it, that the world around you doesn’t stop and that there is so much more to see, do and experience when not focused on your PC or phone.

3. Only connect with people and accounts that uplift you and are positive and inspirational.

4. Don’t fool yourself into connecting with accounts that you think are positive and inspiring. If you have negative thoughts after looking at them (like “I can’t achieve that”) delete those accounts/profiles straight away.

5. Realise that people only put up what they want you to see – they do not show you the whole story. And don’t compare yourself to others.

6. Find interests and hobbies that are about engaging with people in the real world not on the Internet.

7. Be real. If you are going to be on social media, think about starting to be a trendsetter and be yourself (you don’t need to fake it). Tell it like it is and show it like it is!


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