Blaine Pollock – Social Media Can Be A Genuine Source Of Depression?

Social Media has all sorts of things – friends, family, followers, coworkers, and even strangers liking what you did today.

With every new notification, you get a little shot of dopamine, and by refreshing the page, you get yet another dose of it.  These sites can begin to create a false sense of connection with people.  So if you want to keep pressing refresh to get another dose, you may start to realize what is happening in your real life isn’t nearly as exciting.  Social sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc, can create a false sense of connection with people so there isn’t as much of a need to reach out to those that are closer to us.

Ultimately, real life pays the price, because the cyber version is more exciting.  It can lead to feeling miserable about what you do or don’t, depending on what the situation is.  When people are online, they are getting a steady sense of approval which feels good.  What is detrimental is that you are constantly on the receiving end of a sense of approval, which naturally feels good.   What isn’t healthy is when you turn more and more to your cyber friends for approval, satisfaction, and that dopamine hit. Then, you stop trying to connect and relate with the people closest to you.

Bear in mind when we mentioned the dopamine-narcotics connection – Turns out that you can actually get hooked on social media too.  The same brain chemicals that get activated from drugs or any pleasure-seeking behavior apply to this as well.   When those happy chemicals plunge, you keep coming back for more, like “drugs” – i.e. picking up your Smartphone to check the latest tweet or post on Facebook.  This takes valuable time from your current physical relationships because you don’t have the need for seeking out what attention you expect and need from loved ones.

Social Media sometimes gives a distorted view of reality, because people publicize the good stuff, not the bad.  Of course, social media is not entirely bad; constantly reaching for your Smartphone does have its upsides.  It can be positive in the sense that it gives us a distraction from pain in our life.  It is a great way to get our minds off of things, but people still need to find a way to cope.  What’s most encouraging about social media is that you can spread an empowering message to the masses in an instant.  It can also give power to support the people in your community and can use this power to rally communities, fundraisers and inspirational messages.

So, how can you make Twitter, or Facebook, or even Instagram, be a constructive and positive part of your life?  Start by being attentive of the company you keep. If you have a friend who emits negative messages, it may be time to unfollow that person.

Beyond that, it’s important to set limitations and rules.  You need to feed your real life and not just your social life.  By putting your Smartphone down while eating dinner or putting the iPad down to go play with your pet, it changes your focus.  If you have ever had the thought like, “I’m so popular because I have 23 new followers today”, this just shifts your focus from what is on your own news feed and being thankful for real moments of happiness.  Go get out into the real world.

Social media aspires to bring us closer, but too much of a good thing can be challenging.    Rationally, we know that comparing ourselves to others isn’t healthy and creates a weak foundation to stand upon.  Thinking and saying ‘Look who liked my picture, or look how many friend requests I got today!  Ultimately you will probably feel less-than or may develop a falsely boosted ego.   


Author: Blaine Pollock