It is probably safe to say at this point that Facebook is an addiction for many people. With mobile technology becoming more prevalent, social media is becoming more accessible than ever and therefore, more tempting to use. Although there is nothing wrong with socializing with friends over the internet, chronic use can lead to unforeseen psychological consequences.
The reasons social media is more likely to cause strain mentally are due to factors such as being overexposed to friends as well as the nature of the site itself, which can facilitate bragging and passive aggressiveness. Following are seven ways that Facebook can make you question your sanity and delete your account.
- It can make you feel inadequate – Social psychologists have discovered that people have a natural inclination to compare themselves to others. Since a large part of Facebook consists of sharing positive things with friends, it can be easy to feel like everyone’s life is going better than one’s own. A study conducted by Chou and Edge (2012) found that chronic Facebook users tend to think that their online friends lead happier lives than them, leading to more feelings of life being unfair.
- It can lead to envy – In addition to feelings of inadequacy, social media can cause one to envy their friends. A recent study has found that passively skimming over others’ highlights on their news feed can make them envious, leading to feelings of resentment over time.
- It can lead to a sense of false consensus – Since Facebook began prioritizing “like-minded” friends in news feeds, they created a minor issue: distorting one’s view of their opinions and beliefs in relation to those of their friends. While this may reduce the chance of people whom you do not agree with seeing your post and arguing with you, it deprives us of the balance that dissenting friends offer, allowing us to believe that more people agree with us than there are.
- It can make you keep the friends that you don’t want – Studies have found that Facebook users who visited their former partner’s Facebook page experienced disrupted emotional recovery post-breakup as well as higher levels of anxiety and distress. Even participants who saw their ex in daily life experienced less distress than those who kept them as Facebook friends after.
- It can make you jealous – In addition to the basic jealousy and paranoia about one’s life being too boring, Facebook can also be very effective at creating friction in relationships when it comes to contact with other people. Even secure people are subject to occasional passive aggressive status updates from their partners on Facebook, opening up the possibility for resentment and trust issues in time.
- It can reveal things to your employer – Although everyone has had a default picture of them partying at some point, it can potentially work against you when applying for a job. Facebook lurking has effectively replaced the personality tests of past job screenings by this point, making any picture or word you posted a potential deal breaker. A recent study from 2010 found that 40 percent of Facebook users mention alcohol use on their Facebook page, with 20 percent mentioning sexual activities. Even with privacy settings on “friends only,” potential employers can still see one’s default picture and cover photo, the two most tempting places to post objectionable content.
- It can be addictive – Since internet addiction was proposed as an addition in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Facebook addiction has garnered attention from researchers, leading to the creation of a Facebook addiction scale. A recent study led by Wilhelm Hofmann of Chicago University’s Booth Business School has found social media use to be more addictive than tobacco and alcohol as well.
Unlike illicit drugs, social media carries no adverse physical effects, making impulsive use/binging all the more easy. However, this is not to say that its negative effects are not balanced out by its positive ones. Research conducted by the University of Arizona has found that posting more status updates than they typically did led to increased feelings of social connectedness and less loneliness.
At White River Academy, we are mindful of the distraction that social media use poses to recovery, limiting access to Internet and cell phones throughout the stages of treatment. If you would like more information on the ways in which we limit media use or utilize it in models like social therapy, feel free to browse the clinical treatments section of our site or contact our 24/7 helpline.