Facebook comparisons: Bad for mental health

If you find yourself looking at your friends’ Facebook posts and comparing your life to theirs in a negative way, Facebook is probably not for you.

I find myself giving this advice to so many of my patients that I was not surprised to see a study on the topic published last week. It evaluated the results of studies on social media and depression from 14 countries and found that these social media comparisons are more likely to lead to depression than the comparisons we make in real life.

The link was especially strong in people who post on Facebook frequently and in people who accept friend requests from their exes.

Facebook depression is a real thing: in 2011 the American Academy of Pediatrics described it as “depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.”

And in my experience, it’s real for some adults, too.

If you’re one of these people who feels depressed after being on Facebook, the solution is simple: Skip it! Uninstall Facebook from your phone! Stop visiting the site from your computer! You do not need that negativity in your life.

If browsing social media is your favorite way of relaxing, find a replacement. Go back to reading books. Find a cell phone game you like. Read the news. Look for DIY inspiration on Pinterest. Do crosswords or sudoku. Get a grown-up coloring book. There are lots of options!

Know yourself and what makes you happy, then choose that. In a lot of cases, it’s not Facebook.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.

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