Sounds pretty self-explanatory, right? It is.
Depression may seem like a ubiquitous term, only to be outdone in its pervasiveness by social media itself. These two things seem to exist strongly alongside each other nowadays. Study after study churns out information about how Facebook is making us sad, Instagram is giving us unattainable expectations, the list goes on.
From my observations, the only advice provided is to cut back on the time you spend on social media.
Now, not to say I don’t support this because I completely do. But how realistic is that for many of us? Plus, as social media advances and becomes a primary means of communication, should we be expected to problem solve its downsides by merely limiting our activity.
I mean, yes, I do think we could all use a little less screen time. Myself include. But clearly, I haven’t taken my own “stop doing it” advice so I decided to try and come up with some alternatives. Because I’m the kind of person, like many of us are, where I want to have my cake and eat it too. So it’s up to me to make it real.
First, I will start by admitting that I experience Facebook Depression, just like the majority of people I know. It would be silly to even attempt to say, “Oh, no I don’t allow Facebook to creep in and make me bummed out ever.” What a lie.
Before my own engagement and eventual wedding, I definitely experienced “engagement envy” of anyone who was engaged before I was. If I saw your engagement announcement on my timeline and I was not yet engaged, chances are I was jealous and then turned inward to evaluate what was going on in my life and why wasn’t I engaged. That way of thinking can not only put a lot of pressure on yourself but if you’re involved in a relationship, it can start to affect that too. I think anyone who’s been in a committed relationship knows that social media has, to some degree, affected your view of your relationship and it’s level of commitment, as well as your desire to move on to the “next level.”
I get it though. Those types of “accomplishments” are absolutely worth posting on social media and sharing with your family and friends.
Here’s the thing – I like being able to know what’s going on in people’s lives without seeing them everyday face-to-face. I realize that’s not ideal human communication, but social media has allowed me to keep in contact with family that lives far away when I would have otherwise only been able to talk to them a few times a year when they come in town or to be able to know about someone I went to school with who is now living somewhere else or any similar situation where people aren’t immediately available.
Social media is absolutely magical, there’s no question about it.
However, the issues arise when we start to exclusively live off social media. What I mean by that is that we think the things other people post are the only experiences they have and then assume that they are otherwise living perfect lives without flaws or shitty days like our own. How wrong we are to assume anything of the sort.
I’ll throw myself out there as an example.
I battle depression. (I use the term battle because it makes me sound like a badass warrior, so whatever.) There are some years where my depression is manageable and other years where it drags me down further than I’ve ever felt in my human experience. Until starting this blog and talking about it pretty openly, you might not know that I experienced depression at all. As a matter of fact, in the middle of a particularly rough battle with depression, I had posted a photo of my husband, myself, and our dog outside the home we just purchased. I didn’t throw out any posts about the days I had to go home early from work because I couldn’t function like a normal human. I didn’t post a picture of me on the weekends physically unable to leave the bed. I posted pictures of my dog in his new backyard. It was the only thing I was able to find joy from in the midst of a battle. Without my admonition just now, I would safely assume everyone scrolling my social media posts thought I was having a hunky dory time with our newest accomplishment. And while it was an amazing time in our lives, I can also look back and personally recall that the months surrounding that photo were challenging for me. I would venture to guess that there are no posts around that time indicating anything to do with my depression.
My longwinded example is to explain that even when it looks like someone is tackling all these life accomplishments and posting amazing things happening in their life, they can be, in a sense, hiding their true reality. Showing just their highlight reel, if you will. But honestly, can you blame them? Do you think I wanted to be experiencing a nasty bought of depression during an extremely happy time in my life? Heck no. So, of course, I only posted my triumphs during that time.
And I know I’m not the only person to do things like that.
This isn’t a post calling for people to stop posting only their positive life events. Or even for people to start sharing their dark times. I wouldn’t want anyone to do anything they aren’t comfortable doing. This is, however, a post calling for all of us to change our mindset about the ways we use social media.
Take the majority of what you see with a grain of salt. There’s truth in the things people post, without a doubt. But it’s often times not the entire truth. So when you see that someone has posted they’re engaged or a pregnancy announcement or pictures from an amazing vacation, remember that they are sharing the highlights of their life. They aren’t also choosing to bare their souls and share the stories of their struggles.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned thus far in life it’s that everyone struggles. Our struggles aren’t all the same, but at one point or another, we all face something that challenges us. Something that we don’t share on social media or talk about publicly. And that’s okay! But when we continue to use social media the way we do I think it’s important for us to pause when we notice that feeling of envy growing, and remember that whoever pushed that button inside us is just another human being as complex as ourselves. The photos or status updates they post expressing their happiest accomplishments is just that – them sharing their happiest moments.
I know my little blog post on the internet isn’t going to miraculously change the world and be rid of Facebook depression altogether. However, my hope is that someone who needs it reads it. Someone who has experienced the same thing I have – jealousy and immediate self-comparison in the face of people’s perpetual highlight reels – and who needs a little guidance to change. I’m slowly making changes as well and I think it all starts with our mindsets towards the things that cause us to travel down the Facebook depression timeline.
It may feel inevitable, but from what I’ve been able to figure out if you remember that everyone has their seasons in life, your own season of happiness could be right around the corner. And you never know, if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at might change. You could begin to see your own positive Facebook and Instagram posts with a little shift in your mindset.
Social media is a tool designed to help us humans, not control us. I might sound like I’m trying to ring out a battle cry of humans vs. tech, but I’m not. (Not yet at least…) I am, however, trying to remind all of us that social media and the technology we are utilizing today exists in order to make our existence easier and more enjoyable. Social media breaks are wonderful and useful, from what I’ve gathered, but when we return to the world of internet connections, I think an adjusted mindset would help us all to use the amazing inventions for their purpose instead of allowing them to devour our lives.