Coaching & Development Solutions

Why Facebook Makes You Depressed, And How Instagram And Reddit Can Help

We spend around fifty minutes per day on Facebook so it would be reasonable to expect that this large investment of our time would make us happier people. However, the opposite is true: spending time on Facebook makes us depressed. Researchers at the University of Cologne have found that we feel envious of the happy status updates posted by our friends which makes us believe that they have better lives than we do. This could be because we are more likely to post positive updates and share happy photos instead of describing when we fail or are sad. Strangely, we don't tend to notice that visits to Facebook make us unhappy and normally continue using it. A study performed by the Happiness Research Institute of Copenhagen showed that people on Facebook are 39% more likely to be unhappy, and 55% more likely to be stressed, than those not on the social network.

The Guardian reported that when she stopped using Facebook one participant commented:

"After a few days, I noticed my to-do list was getting done faster than normal as I spent my time more productively. I also felt a sort of calmness from not being confronted by Facebook all the time."

So it seems that social media is bad for your mental health, and suggests we should cut down on it. That conclusion was challenged when a recent study from Drexel University claimed that Instagram was a safe place to post sensitive information. The authors wrote:

"Physical or mental health and body image concerns are stigmatized, rarely disclosed and frequently elicit negative responses when shared with others. We found that these disclosures, in addition to deep and detailed stories of one's difficult experiences, attract positive social support on Instagram."

So why is posting on Instagram, co-incidentally owned by Facebook, better for you than spending time on Facebook? The primary reason is that on Instagram you are able to use pseudonyms which can encourage more honest posting of personal problems including depression, eating disorders and self-harm. The anonymity also helps other users to comment that they also experienced the same issues which makes the original poster feel they are part of a community instead of being a lone sufferer. The same research group discovered that people who have experienced sexual abuse. an often unreported crime, described it on Reddit. This social media channel also allows anonymity, and also lets users create throwaway accounts which can be used for a post and then discarded.

As a coach I know that confidentiality is critical, and it allows a client to speak openly about their ambitions, insecurities and fears. The most important step on meeting a new client is to build a rapport which lets them open up, and once that's built it's remarkable what they are comfortable saying. I'm now a lot more conscious of the time I spend on social media, and what it gives me, than I used to be. It's great that some channels, such as Instagram and Reddit, can prove supportive for sensitive issues, but sometimes we should also recognise it's time to put down our smartphone to talk to another human being.

About The Author

Alasdair Graham is the founder of Apex Discovery and a coach who helps leaders and businesses grow. If you found this blog post useful then please share it.

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