Why Facebook May Be Making Teens Depressed

We’ve all seen it: Someone posts exciting news to Facebook and gets bombarded with “likes” and congratulatory comments. Whether announcing a cool, new job or showing off a cute puppy, people love to share life updates on social media. Teens may talk about being jealous of someone’s Facebook status, but how does that actually impact their mental health? Researchers decided to find out!

According to a study at the University of Missouri, Facebook use can lead to feelings of depression if the site triggers envy among users. While the research focused on young people and not necessarily teens specifically, it certainly applies to them as well, since a whopping 94% of teens use Facebook.

Margaret Duffy,a professor and chair of strategic communication at the MU School of Journalism, explained the study, saying:

We found that if Facebook users experience envy of the activities and lifestyles of their friends on Facebook, they are much more likely to report feelings of depression. Facebook can be a very positive resource for many people, but if it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect. It is important for Facebook users to be aware of these risks so they can avoid this kind of behavior when using Facebook.

When comparing their lives to those of others on Facebook, it can be a slippery slope. However, the researchers suggest self-awareness as a solution. Recognizing that people only mostly post positive moments to social media does not mean their lives are perfect—instead that’s only the part of their lives they choose to share.

Maybe another solution to Facebook-induced envy is taking a break from technology. Try encouraging your teen to set a tech curfew! They may not love the idea at first, but less screen time does improve their ability to get a good night’s sleep.

For more about teens and technology, keep an eye out for our story in the May 2015 issue of Choices. In the mean time, click here to learn more about Choices—a health, well-being, and life skills magazine for teenagers.