By Lauren Gualdino
You use it to connect with friends from high school, post pictures from last weekend, and update every move you make.
It is supposed to be an outlet for expression and fun.
But could using Facebook lead to depression?
New studies say yes.
According to Facebook.com, there are 500 million active users with more than 50 percent of them logging on daily. People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook. Children and teens from the ages of 8 to 18 engage in more than seven hours of electronic activity daily, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study.
There is a new phenomenon according to the American Academy of Pediatrics called “Facebook Depression.” Kids can become depressed when they compare their pages to those of their peers; it’s becoming a race to see who has the most friends. Plus, the study says, children are spending more time talking to friends on the computer than they are off.
Dr. Gwenn O’Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician and lead author of new American Academy of Pediatrics social media guidelines has stated, “It can be more painful than sitting alone in a crowded school cafeteria or other real-life encounters that can make kids feel down, 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.”
College students are also seeing the impact social networking can have on one’s social skills.
“I think that the face-to-face relationships have lost value because of this type of technology, said Nick Damato, Mercy College student. “Now when people want to contact someone, or even go as far as asking someone to hang out, it seems to always be through Facebook.”
With Facebook originally started for college students to be used to connect with other students, it seems as if it has come very far to now include children and adults. College students and adults, who understand the importance of having an off-line relationship, they know how to handle the constant flow of information on Facebook, but a child needs to be taught that what is posted online is a distorted presentation of the truth.
“When I was younger I would always get angry or upset if I saw something that a girlfriend would do, like relationship status, pictures and talking to certain people. Lately now that I am older I just find humor in it with the pictures and posts on friends walls,” said Damato.
The report suggests that teens already with a low self-esteem level will become depressed by realizing that they do not have the popularity or “lavish” teen life styles that others do. Some become very bitter and envious of these revelations. Others initially feel accepted, says the study, but then realizes they are nothing more than names on a list and not a true friends.
The study mentioned a poll showing that 22 percent of teenagers logged on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times a day, and more than half of adolescents use a social media site more than once a day.
“The intensity of the online world is thought to be a factor that may trigger depression in some adolescents,” the study said.