By Loraine Balita-Centeno
To say that you had a rough day is this month’s biggest understatement—on top of pressures mounting up at work, you’re struggling with your messy finances and you can barely pay your bills, you go home wishing you had someone to talk to, someone to share your burden with but with no time to visit friends and family, you feel disconnected, alone, and isolated.
So you go online to blow some steam off, but each time you do this you always come out feeling even worse, after hours scouring through your feed, and stalking people on Facebook you feel even more miserable. You ask yourself, how come they have the money to go on lavish trips when I can barely make rent? Why are they so blessed to have a partner and a family while I’m here alone at home every night? How did they get so lucky and I, not so? Sound familiar?
Well, you are not alone. You are not the only person wallowing in self-pity every night after spending hours on social media stalking your favorite frenemy who seems to have it all together. She seems to have a perfect life—a wonderfully happy family, successful career, money to travel, and crazy metabolism as she seems to be able to eat carbohydrates in all shapes and form and not get fat,
And the nasty passive aggressive comments on your recent photos by people who have so much negativity in their body they have to spill it out online, isn’t helping either.
Social media in its infancy was full of promise—research pointed toward the positive experience people get out of it, the way it enabled us to connect to long lost friends and relatives from the other side of the globe. But recent studies are not so optimistic, they’re painting a dark picture of social media’s effects on a person’s emotional and mental wellbeing.
Social media is bad for your well being
Numerous studies have supported one fact that many might be familiar with: the more people use social media the less happy they become. One research titled “Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-being in Young Adults” by psychologists from the University of Michigan found that while on the surface Facebook provides the need for social connection by allowing people to instantly connect online, it has, in the long run, negative effects on a person’s well-being. Facebook, according to the research, is linked to less moment-to-moment happiness and less life satisfaction. And the more people use Facebook on a daily basis the lower their life satisfaction drops.
This is supported by another study published on the Journal of Epidemiology, which basically says that social media use has a negative effect on a person’s well-being, mental health, and life satisfaction among many others.
Other research has pointed to the fact that the structure and use of social media promotes social comparison, in that people tend to compare their lives with those of others. The problem lies with the fact that social media offers only one side of someone’s life, often the person puts his or her best foot forward projecting a seemingly perfect life.
“The things you see on social media, the life of people you see is very filtered,” says Kathleena dela Rosa a Psychology lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University and board of director/psychologist of AAAI Assessment Psychologists Inc..
“Social media shows only a glimpse of another person’s life, often the positive and beautiful side only,” she adds.
And when people go on social media they tend to compare themselves with others, their lives with those of others. “In the olden days you used to compare yourself to models you see in magazines and on TV only, now you have more people you see on social media and you tend to compare yourself to,” dela Rosa explains.
People are comparing themselves with an unrealistic image created by someone online, that of a perfect life. This pushes them into a cycle of self-pity and self-loathing. A study by Helmut Appel published on Current Opinion in Psychology found that Facebook envy can eventually lead to depression.
Scrolling through the endless #blessed statuses in your news feed, photos of people in happy relationships, posts about their career success, can eventually take its toll on your mental health.
Easy to be mean with zero compassion on social
A person’s social media presence also makes her or him a target for cyber bullies. It is so rampant and so severe that numerous suicides most especially by teens were linked to cases of cyber bullying. In 2013 a 12-year-old Filipino American girl from New York killed herself in her room. Her parents found a letter she left detailing the cyber bullying she has suffered because of a video posted online of her getting beaten by another girl. The girl reportedly experienced relentless online bullying, which prompted her to take her own life.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that the more time people use social media the more likely they are to be depressed. The team headed by Dr. Brian Primack polled over 1,700 adults and analyzed their use of Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr, among many other social media platforms.
This, according to the researchers, is because “social media use could be fueling “Internet addiction,” a proposed psychiatric condition closely associated with depression. Spending more time on social media may increase the risk of exposure to cyber-bullying or other similar negative interactions, which can cause feelings of depression.”
But why is bullying so rampant on social media? “In social media, the interaction is not face-to-face so it’s easy to hide, mas malakas ang loob ng tao to bully online” says Dr. Tootsie Escandor, founder of the Vanderpol Center for Leadership and Pastoral Formation. Dr. Escandor, who holds a Doctor of Psychology degree, believes that relationships are supposed to be nurtured face-to-face. The nature of social media creates a disconnect “nalelessen ang value natin as human beings,” she explains. “In social media people tend to lose their compassion.”
It’s easier to bully someone online relentlessly, prey on their weakness, and kick them when they’re down because you don’t see them in person, you don’t see and feel their pain in real life. People find it easier to post mean comments online, because it’s so impersonal and they can just log out or hide using a different account.
Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives—it has changed the way we interact, the way we build relationships, settle issues, and deal with people. Along with the advantages that this has brought our civilization are a host of problems we have to address and soon, with hope.
Social media has advanced at such a dizzying speed that it has left our laws, policies, and protocols behind. Just when we thought we’ve figured it out, it evolves and changes again. As much as we recognize its role in our lives and how much it has made everything easier and much more convenient, let’s hope that there is still a chance we can go back to nurturing our relationships face-to-face, because nothing beats having someone there who can feel your pain, see you laugh or cry, and offer you a hug and a comforting pat on the back when you need it.