Facebook can lead to depression and misrepresentation of self
Facebook has certainly changed the way we represent ourselves in the world. Recent studies have been exploring how Facebook affects the human psyche on a personal and social level. It is natural for people to want to share posts that represent the best versions of themselves online. It seems, however, that continually posting a curated version of oneself on Facebook can lead to depression and cause alienation by friends.
Studies link depression to Facebook usage
A recent study has shown that seeing friends post about the great things in their life on a recurring basis can make us feel unhappy, less secure and unattractive. The University of Michigan conducted a study in which subjects where interviewed five times a day and their mental disposition compared with how often they had accessed Facebook that day. Associate professor of social psychology at the university, Ethan Cross, found a direct correlation.
"The finding was the more people used Facebook, the worse they felt, and the less satisfied they were with their lives," said Kross.
Humans generally have an idealized self that is shown to the world. We put on clothes, drive cars and get our hair styled in ways that aim to reflect our identities in a certain light. For many people, the difference between our online and offline selves is not that big. For some people, the difference between our Internet persona and real persona is striking. Social media offers the ability to exercise greater control over the versions we allow people to see online.
"There's certainly an opportunity that people have to carefully curate how people appear," added Kross.
Another study was conducted at Northwestern University, where 108 couples participated. The scientists asked the participants to keep a daily diary for two weeks recording how they felt about their relationships. The researchers examined how each participant publicly interacted with their significant other on Facebook. Researchers looked at wall posts, status updates and photo comments. An increase in Facebook activity was observed especially when one partner felt down about the status of their relationship. Lydia Emery, Ph.D. graduate student at Northwestern University in Illinois, and head of the study, commented on the link between relationship woes and Facebook, reported Tech Times.
"People can choose what image of themselves to convey on Facebook, so it's intriguing that people seem to emphasize their relationships in that image when they're feeling insecure about them," said Emery.
Experimenting with how online personas can be manipulated
Other people have experimented with what they can do with their online personas through manipulation. David Cicirelli, a graphics designer in New York, announced to his friends in 2009 that he was going to quit his job and travel West. For six months he posted fictitious stories and pictures about his travels. He posted about being attacked by a rabid coyote, meeting an Amish woman on a farm and being kidnapped by a cult. Cicirelli simply Photoshopped the pictures and fabricated the details. He later wrote a book called "Fakebook," discussing his project and how eventually he became jealous of his alter ego, reported The Boston Globe.
"The point I was trying to prove was how everybody's online persona was not quite right," Cicirelli said.
Ultimately, social media is here to stay. Perhaps the best way to deal with Facebook is to participate and have an online profile, but not take it too seriously. Spending too much time on one's own profile, or the profiles of friends everyday could indicate that there is an underlying psychological problem that needs to be addressed.