Facebook may be a great way to keep up with family, friends and high school sweethearts. But recent studies by the American Psychological Association suggest that comparing yourself to others via social media can be emotionally harmful to frequent Facebook users.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that, while social media can be a valuable communications tool for adolescents struggling socially, it can also harvest negative feelings of self-worth if teens compare themselves to the “perfect” people they see on Facebook.
People with low self-esteem may use social media to satisfy their craving for interpersonal reassurance, mental health experts say. But if people needing approval gets “snubbed” or criticized on Facebook – or believe others have a perfect life that they don’t enjoy, they can get trapped into a “negative feedback loop.” As people fail to gain approval from peers they begin to foster more negative self-talk, which leads to lower self-esteem. Lower self-esteem leads to more negative self- talk and the cycle of negativity continues.
The problem doesn’t appear to be “how much” time you spend on Facebook, but “how” you spend your time. For example, people who regularly compare their profile pictures to others often have a more negative view of their own appearance, and in turn, a lower estimation of their self-worth.
As a study published in the Psychology of Popular Media Culture Journal explains, “more negative and less positive self-reported social networking interactions were associated with depressive symptoms, whereas time spent engaging in social networking was not.”
The psychologists’ suggestion:
* Take news on Facebook for what it is – a quick look at a quick point in life.
* Don’t ruminate or read too much meaning into other people’s experiences – or photos.
* Take their posts with a sense of humor – and a grain of salt.
* Avoid negative self-appraisals -remember, you are comparing yourself to the edited version of someone else’s life.
The more positive projections you make after perusing Facebook, the happier you will be.