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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 May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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