In case you occasionally channel your inner adolescent, you oughta stay away from Facebook. It’s not because — as in the days when the Mean Girls were the scourge of seventh grade — you will be judged. It’s because you will judge them — and find yourself falling short by comparison.
Compare. Contrast. Fail.
You don’t have to know from Justin Beiber to realize this is not necessarily rocket science: Even though we all know that facebook personas are carefully curated — we do it ourselves, after all — a new study published this week in Pediatrics suggests that while we know our own profiles might be a bit, um, varnished, we tend to get sucked right in to whatever our friends post. In other words, we believe. We think they have more fun.
According to the study:
Researchers have proposed a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression,” defined as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression. Acceptance by and contact with peers is an important element of adolescent life. The intensity of the online world is thought to be a factor that may trigger depression in some adolescents.
No one can say for sure whether it’s cause and effect or a simple correlation, but here’s what the study’s lead author, Dr. Gwenn O’Keefe, told the Associated Press:
But there are aspects of Facebook that can make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate for kids dealing with poor self-esteem, said Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a pediatrician and lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social-media guidelines published today in the group’s journal, Pediatrics.
With in-your-face friends’ tallies, status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times, Facebook pages can make some kids feel even worse if they think they don’t measure up.
It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down, O’Keeffe said, because Facebook provides a skewed view of what’s really going on. Online, there’s no way to see facial expressions or read body language that provide context.
Maybe yes? Maybe no? But even when we’re no longer teenagers chasing after those girls who have more fun, is there still a trace of that insecurity that wakes up whenever we get sucked into the great comparison game, the often unintended consequence of social media? Do we search for constant validation in the form of a “like” button? Do we end up with one more measure by which we judge ourselves? Do we saddle up for another frantic chase after all the trappings of our iconic self?
We may have outgrown our awkward adolescent selves, but still, there’s that lingering need to compare, which is facilitated by the minute-to-minute status updates that are up in our face whenever we care to check. On the one hand, we’re trying to make our way in this brave new land of unlimited options without a roapmap or much in the way of generational role models. But then, right there, with the click of a button, there’s someone out there who looks to be doing it better, faster, righter — and having a lot more fun.
Women today have every choice–and every one of us is, at some point or another, terrified we’ve made the wrong ones. Is it any wonder, then, that we treat our public personas like we might a disssertation: something we must present and defend? Here is my choice, and look how great it is! I have achieved the American Dream–witness husband and spawn! Or: I’m single and successful and fancy-free–witness the world travels and amazing fun! When in reality, of course, both are bullshit. Because life is life and it’s fabulous at times and at other times there are diapers to change or douchebags to date, and either way there’s bills to pay… But just because we’ve come up against yet another dirty diaper–or douchebag–does not mean we chose wrong.