Just about anyone who uses social media on a regular basis will (at least) sometimes experience a slight feeling of envy, verging on sadness, unfulfillment, loneliness. That happens because people on social media highlight the good, glamorous, happy parts of their lives, whiles leaving the less glamorous ones away from the “spotlight”. So when comparing your lonely friday evening to somebody’s wild night out, it’s natural to feel a bit depressed.
This becomes an issue when such feelings are not temporary. In this sense, a US-based study, sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health found that social media was “significantly associated with increased depression” in a sample of over 1,700 American young adults.
But even with such studies confirming the strong link between social media usage and depression, we’re still left wondering why it happens. One explanation would be that social media encourages virtual communication, not face-to-face, and for somebody already suffering from depression, the lack of real, physical contact with other people might be harmful.
Another plausible explanation points to the issue of validation. We know social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are all about the ‘likes’. People with low-self esteem might place great value on the ‘likes’ they receive, therefore the validation, and become depressed when they are ignored.
A third explanation is the one I’ve already mentioned in the beginning, the issue of comparison. It’s very hard not to compare yourself to others all the time, but we must keep in mind that social media is about appearances and no matter how glamorous your friends’ lives might seem on Facebook or Instagram, odds are they have their own problems to face on a daily basis.