Blog Post

Does Facebook Contribute to Depression in Teens?

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Journalist Researchers at the American Academy of Pediatrics have issued a new set of guidelines in which they refer to "Facebook depression" which may affect troubled teens who become too obsessive about the site. The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that Academy researchers are not sure if the new condition, dubbed "Facebook depression" is an extension of depression that may already be present in a teen, or if it is a distinct condition linked with using the online site. Dr. Gwenn O'Keefe, lead author of the new social media guidelines, says there are unique aspects of Facebook, such as friends' tallies, status updates, and photos of people having a great time, that can make it difficult for teens who are battling low self-esteem. “Facebook is where all the teens are hanging out now. It’s their corner store,” O’Keeffe said. Unfortunately, it's also where they bully each other. Academy guidelines note that online harassment “can cause profound psychosocial outcomes,” including suicide. The widely publicized suicide of a 15-year-old Massachusetts girl last year occurred after she’d been bullied and harassed, in person and on Facebook. “If you really didn’t have that many friends and weren’t really doing much with your life, and saw other peoples’ status updates and pictures and what they were doing with friends, I could see how that would make them upset,” said 16 year-old Abby Abolt to the AP. “It’s like a big popularity contest — who can get the most friend requests or get the most pictures tagged,” she said. For some teens, a lack of friend requests can be as painful as having to sit alone in a school cafeteria or being dateless on prom night. The site is also commonly used by young people to post rude or judgmental comments on the walls of people they don't like, which can cause embarrassment for anyone, but especially for a vulnerable teen.  This isn't the first time Facebook has been named a suspect in making lives miserable. A study released last month by Edinburgh Napier University found that certain actions and activities that Facebook users have to put up with on a regular basis can cause psychological strain no matter what the age of the user. The study of 200 student users of the site found that “for a significant number of users, the negative effects of Facebook outweigh the benefits of staying in touch with friends and family." “For instance, although there is great pressure to be on Facebook, there is also considerable ambivalence among users about its benefits,” said Dr. Kathy Charles, lead researcher of the study. She also found that the more friends a person had the more likely they were to be stressed out. Rejected friend requests caused 32 percent of the people who participated in the study to feel guilty - and 12 percent of the people said that Facebook just made them generally anxious. “The other responses we got in focus groups and one-to-one interviews suggest the survey figures actually under-represent aspects of stress and anxiety felt by some Facebook users, whether it’s through feelings of exclusion, pressure to be entertaining, paranoia or envy of others’ lifestyles.” Charles added. There are definitely benefits to Facebook - such as connecting with friends and family, sharing pictures and exchanging ideas. "A lot of what’s happening is actually very healthy," said Dr. O'Keefe, "but it can go too far.” © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly®/Women of Grace®