I recently came across a study that suggested it may be in a mother’s best interest to take some time away from Facebook. This may hold true for fathers as well. Numerous studies have been conducted in an effort to understand what effect, if any, Facebook and other social media sites have on our outlook and sense of well being. Social media, it appears, stresses mothers out because they feel the need to present a perfect life through status updates. In turn, Facebook has a negative effect on how we view ourselves.
There has actually been a word coined for one effect social media has on its users: “Facebook depression,” which is a lowered sense of well-being and life satisfaction correlated to Facebook use. The more you use Facebook and other social media sites, the worse you tend to feel about your life. As connected as Facebook allows us to be with family and friends, it can also increase our feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness.
There is some logic behind why it tends to be specific to social media sites, and not internet use in general. Our social media friends tend to be like-minded or people from our past, like high school and college classmates. Comparing ourselves to people who are similar or belong to our generation, and feeling like we are somehow lacking, is a lot more deleterious than not measuring up to celebrities we might come across on our Yahoo or MSN newsfeed. Those people are famous, so it makes sense that they have more and can do more than we can. We may feel a twinge of envy, but it is nowhere near what we might feel if it were someone who graduated with us.
I understand this phenomenon all too well. I have found myself reading status updates of friends and feeling like I need to do more or do it better than I have been. One friend in particular really does seem to have the perfect life with perfect children. Everyday, there are pictures posted of smiling kids as they receive some award or achieve some accomplishment, or vacations where everyone is smiling at the camera and gleefully engaged in some family activity. How is that kind of life even possible?
We took a trip to DC last year and every activity we did seemed to end with one of us in a snit about something. There were only four of us and it seemed impossible to find something everyone wanted to do at the same time. As happy as I am that my friend’s life has turned out well for her, I’m also a bit envious. I’m tempted to post a status update of my own, although I would have to stretch the truth to even come close to measuring up to how her life appears to be. Is it really as happy as it seems to be on the outside? On the other hand, could it be that she chooses to post only the positive aspects of her life because she too feels a need to measure up to some Facebook ideal?
I try not to let other people’s posts get me down. Instead, I try to focus on being happy that they are happy, and what is positive in my life. Maybe we all need to take some time away from social media every once in a while.
What do you think? Should we take a break from social media every once in awhile to lessen stress and improve our outlook on our own life? Have you ever been tempted to post a less than truthful status update or felt “less than” as a parent in response to someone’s status update?
Denise Rowden is a parent of two teens: an 18-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son. She has worked in Special Education, Alternative Education and adolescent group homes. She has a BS in Psychology from the University of Southern Maine and is currently working on her Life Coach certification from the International Coach Federation.