Facebook has been a pretty amazing tool for socialization! Who could have foreseen a decade ago that we would be checking in with friends and family from around the country on a daily basis, making new friends through this medium, and even getting a lot of our news through the recommendation of others? Many of our Alden friends enjoy receiving Facebook notifications about what’s going on in our communities, and health tips just like this one. Several recent studies confirm that while Facebook and other social media cannot take the place of IRL (“in real life”) socializing, they can be good tools for keeping us feeling connected.

But Facebook can have a downside, say experts at the University of Houston. They warn that using Facebook can in some circumstances be linked with depressive symptoms. According to researcher Mai-Ly Steers, if we spend our Facebook time primarily comparing our lives to those of others, we can end up feeling sad.

The researchers explain, “The concept of social comparison is not new. In fact, it has been studied in face-to-face context since the 1950s. However, engaging in social comparisons on online social media sites may make people feel even worse.”

Why would this be? First of all, says Steers, Facebook can give us more information about people than we get in real life—including frequent updates about what friends and acquaintances are doing and accomplishing. And Steers says that, given human nature, “Most of our Facebook friends tend to post about the good things that occur in their lives, while leaving out the bad. If we’re comparing ourselves to our friends’ ‘highlight reels,’ this may lead us to think their lives are better than they actually are and conversely, make us feel worse about our own lives.”

Not much good comes of comparing ourselves to others! So remember—next time an old chum sends you a friend request, they no doubt carefully selected the most flattering profile photo, and they’re most likely to post photos of that Hawaii vacation, versus the weekend they spent doing laundry. Enjoy your friends’ accomplishments, but remember—just as in real life, there’s not much to gain from comparing ourselves to others. And even as your friends are putting their best foot forward on their Facebook wall, they may be comparing themselves unfavorably to you!

Source: IlluminAge Communications Partners with information from the University of Houston.

The information in this article is not meant to replace the advice of your doctor. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, talk to your healthcare provider.

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