Living

Is Facebook making you depressed?

"Facebook depression" is becoming a growing concern among users of the social network.

Facebook.com

Does Facebook make you feel more or less popular? It’s not as silly a question as it sounds (OK, maybe it’s just a little silly.)

If some social media researchers are to be believed, the site and others like it provide a whole new way to make a person feel sad, lonely and unpopular. This is especially true for teenagers, who are susceptible to what pediatricians are calling “Facebook depression.” For these kids, Facebook is akin to a popularity contest in which they come last. To better equip parents to combat the negative effects of social media, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) posted their research and new social media guidelines on Monday.

But that’s just half the story. The AAP also acknowledges social media’s positive effects, noting that where some kids feel social isolation even more acutely online, others thrive. In these cases, social networking enhances a sense of belonging, facilitates social interaction and helps shape a sense of self.

I have a Facebook profile and have had one for something like three years. I have 194 friends. Don’t scoff. It’s taken me upwards of three years to convince 194 people to accept my friend invitation. During that time, I’ve been rejected, ignored and even de-friended (I know what you did, Jon!)

I’m not a teenager (thank you, aging!), but I’ll admit to a little Facebook-related depression every once in a while. When I see someone with an active wall, complete with postings, great pictures, and plenty of jokey, friendly banter, I’ll admit to an occasional twinge of envy. What a great Facebook life they appear to have, I’ve thought to myself. All those friends and all that travel! I wonder how many Air Miles they’ve wracked up this year?

That’s on my most self-indulgent ‘nobody likes me, and why isn’t Matthew Fox replying to my friend request?’ day. Most of the time, however, I see the glass half full. I congratulate myself for having 189 more friends on Facebook than I actually have in my real life. (Who could juggle 194 friends in real life? I can barely keep up with the five or six people I see semi-regularly.)

Clearly, you don’t have to be a teenager to indulge in Facebook-related depression or elation. But as a former teenage girl (threat level: code red), I can’t imagine that I needed yet one more opportunity for feeling either extreme.

What about you? Does Facebook affect you one way or the other?