The net and the brain: does social media cause depression?

 

You can learn from your search history.

 

Congratulations to Mark because Facebook comes in handy for once. As one of the first social media applications that went big, it became also the most researched. To start we know that every user looks at a different homepage. So your world, when not disputed by the real world, will look like you want it too ¹. Oh it is a heaven for right-wingers, anti-vaxxers, snakeoil sales-men, yoga-mothers and vegans. Your perception of the world as it presents to you becomes warped. There is a true confirmation-bias here. Off course this also plays out in the real world, you have control – to an extent – what you want to see, listen and think about. But the real world is not a flat wall, it will confront you in a different way than the internet does.

 

Research finds that social media could be a possible help to diagnose depression in the future. Searches on Facebook could be used as an indicator of your mental wellbeing. There is a correlation between searches  online and depression which means they go well together but what causes what couldn’t be determined. When using social media you are the one in charge[1] of your window to the world whitch ironically seems to be a wall. The association is when feeling depressed, you may search things to confirm your feelings and thoughts. So the more you look at depressing things online, the prediction is that you have an increased chance of being a more ‘depressed’ individual. Research didn’t find that your searches are making you depressed but that they can trigger an underlying condition. An additional point is, that the snake oil salesmen do realize this. They know how to find people who are struggling, they know what to release on social media to lure you in. Now you are ill and a vulnerable target.

 

In defense of social media I think that there is a misconception about online friendships. It does connect people. The format may be different and may be appear easier (because, you can make yourself a bit more likable, just add the filter you want) but to truly connect to somebody, you’ll need to put in the same effort as in real life. Even more in my opinion because there are barriers to overcome. When you solely use the written style, be prepared to write out everything you mean and be beware of misconceptions. You are communicating without the help of non-verbal language. But it can be done for sure.

 

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Social media and mental health disorders.

 

I do believe when you are already not feeling well, the internet can be an escape from the real world to seek out an online hiding place. In that matter, social media, like playing video games, can become addictive. It can pose a threat on your mental as on your psychical health. In Japan there a more than half a million(!) hikikomori [2]. It’s a Japanese word for a person who seeks isolation. An internet connection could be used to form somewhat a connection with the outer world by creating an online persona. It can help you to overcome or survive a difficult time but at some point there is a road to continue. To make the connection with yourself, to invest in yourself.

 

When people built an online persona in need to fill a void within them or to help supplete a psychotic sense of Self for example, it will take care and time to possibly make a connection between the psychotic world, suppleted by an online persona into the real world. That could be an interesting way of thinking for mental health workers dealing with psychosis.

 

For me, one of the issues of my depression and burnout is that I don’t feel anymore. They call that, flat feelings or flat emotions I believe. Writing posts, looking things up does reconnect me to who I used to know. I used to be a cheerful and curious woman. While writing these blogs rekindles that creativity and curiosity, posting my writings feels like releasing a tiny bit of me into the big world. I am curious how it will be received. It feels like a small re-socialization.

 

 

Who am I online?

 

A lot of social media outlets are based on an image of the Self. The famous self-ie is an excellent example.  When people tend to look at their image, postings or cv for that matter, they may experience a lower self-esteem[3] because the process of creativity is already gone[4]. When you start to compare your ‘result’ with others or even measuring it in numbers, it may affect your self-esteem in a negative way.

 

I would like to think that the best outcome would be to connect your online presence to your real person. Things you experience online can enrich your life and vice versa. The clue is to open those pathways and not to hide behind a filter or a persona.  And to be fully aware that others may not be that transparent. I think closing the gap between online and real life, can make you more balanced. At least you’ll not be scared when you don’t look like your selfie!

 

On the other hand it seems to come down to a well-balanced ‘screen time’ diet. Social media does fulfil a social need, the need to connect. But how you spend your time online can be helpful to be more aware of how you are feeling. When you can be mindful to that, you can determine for yourself if you’re in time for a break into the real world. Try the on-life experience!

 

 

 

[1] I know that there is fake news and I am aware of the algorithm and AI.

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wE1UIK85E3E

[3] Gonzales AL, Hancock JT. Mirror, mirror on my Facebook wall: effects of exposure to Facebook on self-esteem. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, & Social Networking 2011; 14:79–83

[4] My interpretation.

 

 

8 thoughts on “The net and the brain: does social media cause depression?

  1. I spend most of my online time on WordPress, and I think a lot of that is because it’s where I feel comfortable being authentic, so there isn’t a big gap between my online presence and my real self.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I’m also so glad I’ve found this platform. I expercience a lot of freedom for myself and not being judged which is a breath of fresh air to me.

        Like

  2. I too spend most of my time on WordPress, reading others blogs, researching and writing my own blog. I feel more connected on here than on other social network sites because most of my favourite blogs and bloggers seem so much more genuine on here. I used to use Facebook quite a lot, not posting, just reading and catching up on family and friends post. It was my little window on the world, seeing what goes on out there but now I just check it every couple of days ‘to see if anyone loves me.’ (when I get private messages).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know what you mean by spending time, writing and researching for your own blog and reading other blogs! I’m working on a balance between them. A long time ago I used fb but I felt a negative influence on my mental health. I rarely check it now. But I’m hooked on WP! Thank you for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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