Social Media, the place where we spend most of our time, has become what some might call a necessary evil. Most of us have a love hate relationship with Facebook. I know that I fluctuate regularly between canceling my account and feeling like I can’t stop checking it. In fact the only way I can truly get a break from the social media site is to shut down my gadgets and abstain for an extended period of time. The reality is that we are weak to resisting something that feels all at once so good and so bad.
The real question is how detrimental, if at all, is Facebook for our mental health?
Apparently this is a popular query because with over 900 million users worldwide, Facebook has become a very popular research topic. Studies have confirmed that using Facebook can be harmful to your self-esteem, your love relationships, and that it can cause psychological distress. While there isn’t much research out there countering these findings, there are plenty of blogs listing the possible benefits of using Facebook as a form of connection particularly for lonely or isolated individuals.
I think we’ve all accepted that fighting the behemoth known as Facebook is futile. It’s made its mark on our psyches and in our lives so we better learn how and when to include or exclude it. It’s up to us to be our own moderators of how much we use or don’t use it as part of our lives.
What we need to realize is that what we have with Facebook is a relationship, and like all relationships we get triggered by the things we see and hear. Going into each Facebook encounter with this in mind will help reduce the reactive response of wanting to reject or over consume it at any given time.
We need to take full responsibility for how the website affects us and our lives and the best way to do this is through education and self-reflection around our own Facebook usage and habits.
Pros and cons
In a world where being liked has become more of a question of livelihood than popularity, the social world of Facebook can either make you or break you.
Facebook can definitely have its pros and cons. If used at the wrong time or for the wrong purposes it can be extremely damaging and problematic. In the past Facebook has seen it’s share of cyber-bullying, and it has also contributed to bouts of jealousy when a new relationship gets splattered on the page of a recently heartbroken ex lover.
It has been highly problematic for younger adolescents who don’t have the social or emotional development to practice healthy Facebook habits, and who lack the self-confidence to withstand the onslaught of simple lives made to look fancy. For these kids an unliked post is the equivalent of getting a wedgie in the locker room.
Then there are examples of positive psychological effects when Facebook is used to revive and preserve relationships with old and new friends. It can also be a way to connect with other like-minded people who share the same passions and values. This kind of connection can empower and engage groups of people to promote social change and justice.
Old flames have been rekindled, and family members and friends have been reunited using the technology of Facebook. People who may have never connected are suddenly engaged in a way that would not have been possible without the social aspect of the site.
Fit or Flop
Facebook is a fit, and this is particularly true because there are no signs that it’s going away any time soon. As long as we are mindful and wise about how and when we use it, Facebook offers many great opportunities for connection and social advancement for our species. Social media has brought our world closer in many ways and this is something our disenfranchised communities need.
People with low self-esteem or who are vulnerable due to circumstance or age should use it sparingly and mindfully. Facebook is least detrimental when the user has a strong sense of self and ego because of the strong tendency it invokes toward comparison and self-judgment.
In a world where we are becoming more and more disconnected and working longer hours alone in an office, a website like Facebook offers a reprieve from loneliness and isolation. While it’s not a replacement for real human contact it can definitely provide a temporary experience of feeling a sense of belonging.