By now you might have heard and even felt that Facebook is truly depressing. And no we’re not referring to the reposted bad jokes, the weird stuff from brands you follow, the incessant ads, the friend requests from creepy unstable uncles etc. We’re referring to actual clinical depression due to the way you end up seeing yourself through the Facebook lens.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon as well as other universities and research institutions have found that spending your day looking through other people’s pictures, especially holiday pictures and begrudgingly “liking” them can have a sometimes severe effect on the way you view yourself and your life and it can lead to depression and self-loathing.
But Jessica Winter, of Slate Magazine, took the conclusions of this research one step further. If looking at stranger’s holiday photos and liking them makes you feel bad about your own life, this research must surely apply even more so to Instagram, where viewing “fabulous” photos from strangers is all you do.
There’s little official research on what effects Instagram has on you but Hanna Krasnova of Humboldt University Berlin, co-author of the study on Facebook and envy said:
“You get more explicit and implicit cues of people being happy, rich, and successful from a photo than from a status update. A photo can very powerfully provoke immediate social comparison, and that can trigger feelings of inferiority. You don’t envy a news story.”
Krasnova talks about an “envy spiral” that can take place on any medium, including in casual day to day conversation, but it’s especially pronged to take place on Instagram. “If you see beautiful photos of your friend on Instagram,” she says, “one way to compensate is to self-present with even better photos, and then your friend sees your photos and posts even better photos, and so on. Self-promotion triggers more self-promotion, and the world on social media gets further and further from reality.”
This disconnect between what you see and the real world is where the damage happens, where the feelings of self-doubt and depression come in and where all the damage happens.
Of course you as a user can take from this research what you may, but if nothing else remember to log-off once in awhile.