There have been many studies which show that there are clear links between the amount of time people spend on social media, and how depressed they are. You may have sat in your dressing gown all week because you’ve been too depressed to leave the house, but you go on Instagram and all your friends are sharing their exotic holiday snaps. It is your birthday and only a couple of people have remembered, but a more popular person you know has had hundreds of messages on their Twitter feed. Your relationship is falling apart but a loved-up friend has put hundreds of photos and status updates about her new boyfriend on her Facebook account and has 276 likes.
It is very easy, when you are sad and vulnerable and at a very low point in your life, to compare yourself to others on social media. They seem to be happier, more popular, and are having more fun. However, you need to remember this. Social media distorts the truth. What you see on Facebook and other social media sites are the best bits of other people’s lives. The smiles, the holiday snaps, the loved-up couples, the partying, are all a tiny representation of what your friend’s (or work colleague’s, or acquaintance’s) real life is actually like. You do not see photos or status updates when they’ve found out that their child has just failed all their exams, or their spouse has cheated on them, or their toilet has blocked. They may have 900 friends on Facebook but how many of these are people they have actually met? How many of these people will be there for them in times of desperate need?
However, saying that, there are some wonderful advantages to social media, as long as you limit your time on it on a daily basis. You can keep in touch with friends who live far away. If you are feeling low and post a status update your true friends do notice and they will send a message back checking that you’re okay. If you are socially isolated or live far from your family you can share photographs so you don’t feel as though you’re missing out.
The main message I think we all need to remember is this. Just because somebody is popular on social media it doesn’t mean that they are happy in real life. They might be, but then again they might not. Social media is not the absolute truth. If you want to really get to know people chat to them, call them, send them a message. Happiness comes from how you feel, how you love, and how you contribute, not from how many likes you get on Facebook.