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New Research Finds That Facebook Use Is Linked To Depressive Symptoms

New Research Finds That Facebook Use Is Linked To Depressive Symptoms

We’re increasingly used to viewing images in the media with critical eyes, assuming that they’ve been altered or airbrushed, but we tend not to apply the same level of scrutiny to our friends’ lives as we view them via social media updates, and the impact of the seemingly prefect lives that our friends have has been linked to depressive symptoms in a new study at the University of Houston.

The research

The research was conducted by Steers, Wickham and Acitelli at Houston and Paolo Alto Universities and was recently published under the title “Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms” in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

Steers and team carried out two studies which considered the association between time spent on Facebook and depressive symptoms.

Comparing our lives to others can make us feel depressed

Both studies provide evidence that people feel depressed after spending a great deal of time on Facebook.

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One of they key links that Steer found between Facebook and depressive symptoms was as a result of the social comparison that we can undertake with such ease using tools like Facebook. We can easily see how our lives and achievements are stacking up against those of our friends and wider circles.

Social comparison way precedes Facebook

We’ve been comparing ourselves to others for years – there are studies going back as far as the 1950s looking at how we compare ourselves to other people in face-to-face situations:

“Although social comparison processes have been examined at length in traditional contexts, the literature is only beginning to explore social comparisons in online social networking settings,” says Steers.

Steers’ research indicates that Facebook is more likely to lower our mood and impact on our feelings of self-worth than traditional face-to-face comparisons. This may be because of the way in which we share our lives on Facebook and how easy it is spend many hours privately comparing ourselves with others.

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The amount of different ways in which we can compare ourselves to our peers has also grown:

“One danger is that Facebook often gives us information about our friends that we are not normally privy to, which gives us even more opportunities to socially compare,” Steers said.

We feel depressed when we compare ourselves to others on Facebook

Steers’ studies provided evidence that Facebook users felt depressed when comparing themselves to others. Perhaps because our friends are airbrushing their lives as well as their photos. We’re all guilty of thinking carefully about how we portray our lives on social media before we hit the publish button. Most people select only the best photos and the most positive status updates. The humdrum of day-to-day life might not seem worth a status update anyway, so we tend to just highlight and celebrate the good bits.

“If we’re comparing ourselves to our friends’ ‘highlight reels,’ this may lead us to think their lives are better than they actually are and conversely, make us feel worse about our own lives,” says Steer

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Unused to assuming that those around us are airbrushing and sanitizing their lives before they share them (even though we all do it) we tend to compare our own lives, warts and all, to the positive online portrayal of other people’s lives and think we’re comparing like with like – which can be testing for even the most emotionally resilient of us.

People who are depressed spend more time socially comparing on Facebook

According to Steers’ research, the impact of Facebook on people facing depression may be exacerbated compared to non-depressed controls because people with depressive symptoms spend more time comparing themselves to others on Facebook.  More time spent socially comparing on Facebook was correlated with an increase in depressive symptoms – a bit of an unhappy catch 22.

So what can we do about it?

Whilst the study was small so we shouldn’t be too hasty in drawing lasting wide reaching conclusions from it, we could think carefully about our own engagement with Facebook.

If we’re suffering from depression or are aware of spending a lot of time socially comparing on Facebook and this is bringing our mood down, we should perhaps make a conscious effort to spend less time doing so – or try to bear in mind that the highlight reels we read are just that – highlights – and that when we compare the total of our own lives with the highlights of others’ we are not comparing like with like.

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If we think our friends, colleagues or children are finding their internal struggles harder as a result of comparing themselves with a distorted view of friends and family on Facebook, we should highlight to them the differences between Facebook and real life – perhaps using our own timeline as an example and try to encourage them to spend less time socially comparing via social media.

Or we can show them this powerful video which I think we can all relate to a little bit:

Featured photo credit: Girl Typing on her MacBook Pro Close UpBY VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on January 18, 2019

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

1. Limit the time you spend with them.

First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

2. Speak up for yourself.

Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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5. Change the subject.

When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

7. Leave them behind.

Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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