For the last few years, there have been many articles about Facebook getting people into trouble including people losing jobs, Facebook ending relationships, and Facebook being used as court evidence. Facebook is a social networking platform that users of all ages and demographics interact with each other globally.
Now new studies are out saying that using Facebook causes anxiety and depression.
That makes sense. I can understand this.
Many people probably use Facebook as either a primary or secondary means for their social life. I don't think it's humanly possible to keep up with more than a couple hundred "Facebook" friends. I've also heard people say that Facebook is the grown-up online version of being in high school again.
There are many reasons people use Facebook. Some use it to share posts, statuses and updates, observe other posts and updates, be aware of commercial products and community services, communicate with family, and play games. Some people use it professionally for research, marketing, and communication. Others use it to share vacation pictures with family members across the world. Some actively engage themselves while others quietly observe.
I use Facebook and most other social media in one of two ways: personally and professionally. The purpose of this post is to discuss my personal experiences possibly giving specific examples and insight from a user's perspective of why I might agree using Facebook might cause anxiety and depression. At the end there are related links and resources you may find interesting.
Requesting friends, being friends, and un-friending others
One time a while back I friended almost everybody I work with that had a Facebook account. Later I had second thoughts and unfriended many people I was not familiar with, or comfortable sharing my personal posts with. I do realize settings can be modified so people won't see your posts, but then they could see others commenting or hear about it in real life.
When people request me as friends there's always a feeling of brief excitement followed by many questions and an underlying tone of uncomfortableness, regardless of who is sending the request. I think I understand people's expectations in the physical world, I am sometimes unsure those same expectations apply in an online environment. I wonder if my posts that I find amusing may offend other viewers with different beliefs or ways of thinking. These thought processes alone create anxiety about friending new people online, while managing and maintaining relationships with current "Facebook" friends, regardless of my will/want to continue any of the friendships.
Everyone has their own reasons for un-friending people; even I have my reasons. But it's not a good feeling when I am unfriended by someone else. It leaves me with a feeling of wondering: "was it something I did, said, or posted?" At least I used to have that feeling. Lately I have gotten over it. When I am un-friended, or when I un-friend others. Then I also feel horrible when un-friending others. I just have to let go of the fact that everyone including myself has reasons for doing so. Yes this thought process of friending and un-friending seems to cause racing thoughts, therefore creating anxiety.
Posting and Sharing
Then there's the postings. There are many reasons and purposes Facebook users have when they make posts. I have learned that most Facebook users either find those views interesting or feel uncomfortable after learning the type of Facebook user they themselves may be. Others may be completely comfortable and accepting of their posting reasons and style. Posts range from the things people are doing, places they've been, bragging about luxuries, sharing information, promoting their interests or products or soliciting.
The recent research seems to say that people simply view what others have, possibly get jealous or an empty feeling of sadness, and begin thinking about the things they don't have in their lives. It's just a possible sad reminder of things that might be missing from other people's lives. I don't speak for everybody. Sure there are Facebook users who are perfectly content with things in their own lives. But I'll admit seeing pictures allows my mind to wonder about others lifestyles and how time is spent.
Businesses have gotten savvy in targeting Facebook users based on their interests and activity. This makes me wonder who's watching my activity and how it's being analyzed. There is an entire marketing and business world to Facebook that most users don't even realize.
I personally don't enjoy when people use Facebook as an outlet for political or religious beliefs. The things people post depend on what type of Facebook user they are. I feel like just un-friending, but I don't want to cause stress in the physical world, possibly leading to discussions of reasons behind the un-friending. So I usually just block the posts so they're not on my feed, which leads to the question of "why am I friends with them in the first place?." Again, more anxious thoughts.
Sometimes when I make posts, I wonder why not many people clicked "like." I'm not even that into Facebook; although I don't worry about it too much. I wonder the anxiety that other people go through when nobody clicks "like" on their posts. Some people may choose to think about this, and it may bother others subconsciously. My objective when making a post is to either share funny content or share a cute image of my kids. Everybody likes posting cute images of their kids. But even I get sick of looking at other people's kids, and if I'm thinking it, I KNOW others are thinking it about my kids. But on the other hand, there are other users who genuinely enjoy viewing all posts that others share on Facebook, just to see how people's kids are doing.
Finally I constantly choose to just scroll through my Facebook feed on my phone when I'm bored. My phone is there, or course, connecting me 24-7 to my email, Twitter, Facebook, and other time-consuming apps and feeds. I get bored and check my Facebook. Maybe in a store line. Maybe at a long stoplight. Then people post, and my mind starts racing with statements and questions: Is this video worth my time? do I have to click "like?" "This is in bad taste… I don't care to read this," "why am I friends with this person?" All these thoughts happen in a mere matter of seconds that I choose to view my phone because I was bored. Then there's always unfinished business. Yet me and all the others, for some reason or another, continue coming back for more.
This is just my view and experience. Maybe it gives insight or not, but I don't need convincing from the articles that Facebook causes anxiety and depression. I could definitely understand why. There are some many things to think about. Facebook causes so many unanswered questions. Questions that have no definite answer and challenge a mind to question so many topics on so many levels.
I continue to be fascinated by what and how the Facebook experience continues to evolve into over the years. I am amazed by the amount of time some people spend on Facebook. I am shocked at the comments people put at the end of articles and blogs that point out various types of Facebook users. People get angry and defensive about the purposes of Facebook and perceptions of how Facebook is used.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. Here are some links and resources I've collected that you might find interesting.
Can More Friends on Facebook Induce Stress and Anxiety?
Facebook is Bad for Your Health
Facebook Causes Depression
Social Media is Causing Anxiety
7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook
Unbaby.me: Replaces (anything you want) In Your Social Media Feeds with Things You'd Like to See (Like Cats) in a Google Chrome Browser
23 Parents Who Facebook Better Than You
20 Things Your Most Annoying Friends Do on Facebook
What Your Facebook Likes Say About You
This Tells You the Type of Person You Are Based on Your Facebook Likes
Selected Most Predictive Likes
Last but not least, below is one of my previously unpublished and blog posts, which I never really intended to publish. It started as a draft for venting about Facebook. I decided to share it here. If one finds the above blog and links interesting, one might find my next post interesting as well, as it might give more insight to people's thought process while using Facebook. It's more me explaining the actual history, successes, and challenges, and thoughts I've encountered while using my Facebook account. At the end of the post, it also contains links to resources/articles about how Facebook relates to teachers and education.
Facebook: Observations, Evolutions, Implications, and Possibilities by Gary Feltman