What’s on your mind?

Facebook — the happy place in cyberspace we all go to connect with our friends, right? Maybe not. Facebook is becoming more and more of a brag-fest, where people go to construct an online social profile which highlights the amount of friends they have, all the fun stuff they do, and how good they are at picking the best selfie and filter they’ve taken out of 367 attempts. According to research, being exposed to so much personal information which portrays a person in the best possible light can lead to feelings of envy and low social value, which may actually lead to symptoms of depression. Scary right? Something you probably use multiple times a day, might actually be having a negative impact on your mood. So, for my group assignment, we are researching this phenomenon of Facebook and it’s emotional impacts, and we hypothesize that Facebook may indeed have a negative impact on one’s emotions.

To test our hypothesis, I conducted an interview with Stephanie — a use-facebook-multiple-times-a-day-out-of-boredom type of girl, to find out how Facebook effects her mood. The questions I asked Stephanie are a combination of questions from my group questionnaire and also some improvisation questions that arose after hearing Steph’s answers to previous questions.

The questions asked during the interview included:

  1. What do you usually do when you are on Facebook?
    I usually just scroll through my newsfeed and read things that stand out to me. I follow a lot of news pages on Facebook so I guess for me it’s like reading a newspaper.
  2. How do you expect Facebook use to make you feel?
    I expect to feel informed and connected. I expect to be up to date with what my friend’s are doing and what’s going on in the world.
  3. How do you actually feel after using Facebook?
    I usually feel like I’ve just wasted a lot of time. Sometimes I’ll read an interesting article and then it’s interesting to talk to work colleagues or family about it. Or if I’m stuck in the office at work and I log on and a friend is on some tropical holiday or at the beach or in bed still I usually feel pretty jealous [laughs]
  4. What do you least like seeing on Facebook?
    I really hate seeing relationship stuff- like couples who post love hearts and lame messages to each other, it’s like just say it to each others face or over a message. I feel like yes Facebook is a personal place to like share your life, but there’s definitely a limit of how personal you go.
  5. What makes you keep using Facebook?
    I think it’s that feeling of ‘oh no what am i missing out on’ if I don’t log on. It’s usually the day that you don’t log on that something huge happens – your friend gets engaged or there is a massive Facebook fight that got deleted after a few hours so you didn’t get to read it [laughs]. But yeah, just that excluded feeling. A few of my friends don’t have Facebook, and often they’ll miss out on events, purely because people just assume they will see the event on Facebook and come along, but they don’t.

This interview was definitely informative of the type of answers I think my group will receive in our survey, however, this interview was much more open-ended and there was a lot more room for Steph to explain her answers than there would be in a survey. So, I am a little worried that we won’t receive in-depth data from our survey. Regardless, it was interesting to know that someone else feels the same about Facebook that I do, since the answers Steph provided are pretty similar to how I would answer if I was to be interviewed. Bring on Assessment 2!

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Logging into Facebook Depression

 Too Many ‘Friends,’ Too Few ‘Likes’? Evolutionary Psychology and ‘Facebook Depression’

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 11.25.57 pmDepression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. It is estimated that in Australia, around 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime; in any one year, that’s around 1 million Australian adults suffering from depression (Beyond Blue 2015). Whilst there are many different types of depression, with symptoms ranging from minor to very severe, all forms are highly disabling and have an immeasurable impact on an individual’s life. Whilst depression itself has been researched for many, many years – new research has emerged alongside the growing popularity of Facebook: research regarding the link between depression and Facebook through harmful social comparisons. Dr Charlotte Rosalind Blease’s research article, ‘Too Many ‘Friends,’ Too Few ‘Likes’? Evolutionary Psychology and ‘Facebook Depression’, looks directly into this link to try to determine if Facebook can actually cause depression. Blease is completing her fellowship at the University College Dublin’s School of Philosophy. She has completed a PhD on philosophy of science and philosophy of mind, was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Mind, Brain and Cognitive Evolution in Germany and has also lectured in philosophy at Queen’s University, Belfast. She is clearly highly qualified to write on this subject, with a deep understanding of the science of psychology and depression.

Blease uses up-to-date and diverse sources to initially lay down an understanding of both depression and Facebook separately before moving on to “survey the problematic and conflicting results in the empirical literature on the causal link between the use of social networking sites and depression” (p. 2) by objectively providing other viewpoints in comparison with her own. She then continues to discuss how Facebook could possibly cause depression, before concluding with some directions for future research, highlighting that social psychology and evolutionary cognitive science need to be integrated in order to fully understand the connection between social media and depression.

Blease hypothesises, after extensive research, that “if mild depression is an adaptive functional response to perceptions of comparative low social value, Facebook may be a forum which abounds in triggering cues” (p. 7). She states that persistent exposure to ‘successful others’ – ‘friends’ who seem well-liked on Facebook through their profile images, galleries and status updates which are habitually intended to present themselves in the best possible light – may lead to negative self-appraisals, which in turn, could lead to symptoms of depression. Blease concludes through statistical evidence that Facebook users may be more susceptible to mild depressive symptoms when:

1.     They have more online ‘friends’;

2.     The greater the time spent reading updates from this wide pool of friends;

3.     The more frequently the user reads these updates; and

4.     The content of the updates tends to a bragging nature.

These findings might be of particular interest to academics and students working or studying in psychology, cognitive science or media and communications, as the report is quite scientific in nature, with an emphasis on the cognitive side of depression, rather than just Facebook use. From my perspective as a Facebook user, it is thought provoking to consider how what I post affects my ‘friends’ and vice versa. Blease’s well-structured, informative and interesting research article is a valuable contribution to the relatively new and rapidly expanding body of research regarding the cognitive effects that social media has on its users.

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Reference:

Beyond Blue, 2015, The Facts, Beyond Blue, viewed 10 April 2015, <http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts>.

Blease, C. R. 2015,Too many ‘friends,’ too few ‘likes’? Evolutionary psychology and ‘Facebook depression’’, Review of general psychology, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 1 – 1.

Facebook envy: are our ‘friends’ making us depressed?

Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is facebooking depressing? By Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Patrick Ferrucci & Margaret Duffy

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image sourced from: http://www.someecards.com/usercards/viewcard/MjAxMS1mOWU1ZDk5OWU1MWQ3MDFj

With 1.393 billion monthly active users (Smith 2015), and an aim to “…give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” (Facebook, 2015), it would seem ridiculous for people to log on to a website that actually invoked feelings of depression. However, since significant academic discussion exists regarding the negative emotional impact of Facebook, it is interesting to consider the question, ‘does Facebook make people depressed?’ This idea has been explored in the research conducted by Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Patrick Ferrucci & Margaret Duffy in their 2015 research report, ‘Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is facebooking depressing?’ Tandoc is an Assistant Professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Ferrucci is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Bradley University and Duffy teaches courses in strategic communication, research methods and media management at the Missouri School of Journalism. All three authors are clearly highly qualified to write about this topic and each author has released other studies regarding similar topics.

The text attempts to find a link between Facebook use and depression among college students. It ‘uses the framework of social rank theory of depression and conceptualizes Facebook envy as a possible link between Facebook surveillance use and depression’ (Tandoc et al., 2015, p. 139). The authors undertook a survey of 736 college students and found that Facebook can trigger feelings of envy, which, in turn, may lead to feelings of depression. They found that college students who use Facebook heavily have higher levels of envy because they are exposed to a lot of personal information from their Facebook friends – friends who strive for a positive self-presentation by posting ‘successes, material goods, positive relationships, and other information that other users share on Facebook’ (Tandoc et al., 2015, p. 149). ‘Exposure to these pieces of positive information about others can lead to feelings of envy, as information consumers can feel subordinated to others who seem to publish positive experiences all the time. The irony, of course, is that users rarely post negative experiences, which might contradict the aim of positive self-presentation. Thus, when users feel envious constantly, they might develop depression symptoms over time.’ The authors’ findings were objectively backed up with reference to several other reports whilst also including references that opposed the authors’ hypothesis to provide a well-rounded, well-informed report.

Tandoc et al. carried out an online survey that collected information by asking people a number of questions and coding their responses in numerical form suitable for statistical analysis. Within their survey they controlled a number of variables such as Facebook use, envy and depression by defining and specifying the terms. To survey feelings of depression, the authors used the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, one of the most commonly used measures of depression. The scale consists of 20 items asking questions about symptoms associated with depression. The report is well set out with headings and subheadings so the chronological experimental procedure can be easily seen and understood, from hypothesis and method to results and conclusion.

Since Facebook is such a huge worldwide website, Tandoc et al.’s research into the possible negative mental impacts of Facebook use are of great significance to audiences globally – audiences such as academics and students undertaking study in the fields of psychology, behavioural sciences and media and communications, as well as users of Facebook and social media in general. As part of the intended audience, it is interesting to consciously consider whether something that I use every day is actually having a negative impact on my emotions. Additionally, Tandoc et al. suggest that the link between Facebook use and depression is only just starting to attract scholarly attention, but scholars still disagree on the nature of the relationship and so their research is important as it contributes to this growing area which could improve the lives of many people if there is, in fact, a link between Facebook and depression (p. 139).

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Reference:

Facebook 2015, Facebook company mission, Facebook, United States, viewed 19 March 2015, <https://www.facebook.com/FacebookAU/info?tab=page_info&gt>.

Smith, C 2015, How Many People Use 800+ of the Top Social Networks, Apps and Digital Services?, DMR Digital Marketing Ramblings, viewed 20 March 2015, <http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/resource-how-many-people-use-the-top-social-media/6/>.

Tandoc, EC, Ferruci, P & Duffy, M 2015, ‘Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is facebooking depressing?’, Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 43, pp. 139-146.