I was at a friend’s bridal shower last week, and somehow the conversation turned to the concept of “Facebook Depression.” This is a semi-annoying term for that sensation you get after looking at your friends’ profile pages. After some quick Googling, I’ve confirmed that this is indeed A Thing.
While most of the mainstream coverage seems to be concerning kids’ and teens’ Facebook use, I’d say it certainly can apply to adults as well. After all, the reason we all started talking about Facebook Depression was that we’d collectively identified a friend of ours whose Facebook page made us all feel terrible about our own lives. She’s a friend who’s getting her PhD in neuroscience but still apparently has the money and leisure time to go on a lot of vacations, attend a seemingly endless stream of family parties, and do all of the above in fashionable outfits and well-styled hair and makeup.
And I think that’s what helped me pinpoint how Facebook depression works. Whether you realize it or not, you have a set idea of what certain people’s lives are like: Moms are busy (and usually tired); grad students don’t have any money; people with high-up corporate jobs are stressed out. These ideas help neutralize your potential jealousy of anyone you know who’s chosen a life or career path that you wish (either entirely or in part) you’d taken. But when someone’s Facebook page is littered with status updates and endless photo albums showing how much fun they’re having, it’s harder to keep telling yourself that their lives aren’t so great.
This is why I think this phenomenon can be just as significant for adults: as we continue our march into our 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond, the people around us will continue to find ever-higher levels of success. I’m not quite 30 yet and my Facebook friend list, comprised mostly of age-group peers, already includes a self-made millionaire, an extremely successful YA novelist, and an uber-Mom with several adorable children and a gorgeous home. And while I’m chipping away at my dreams, one part-time office job and freelance writing gig at a time, these people have, collectively, already achieved all of my dreams.
So the one comfort I have in all of this is that I don’t think I’m causing any Facebook Depression in anyone on my friends list. I post a lot of status updates, but they’re usually, “Check out this hilarious caaaaaat videooooo!” and not ,”Just got back from Cabo! Ugh, tan lines!” And I don’t post a lot of albums, either, because what would they be? “Here’s me hunched over my computer keyboard at 6 a.m.! Here’s me taking the subway to Coney Island because I can’t afford a real vacation!”
But the important thing to remember is that everyone’s life sucks a little bit. I mean, those people who go on vacations all time are probably super jet-lagged and maybe have even gotten bedbugs once or twice. And that millionaire sleeps on his mattress stuffed with money all alone. So. That makes me feel better. Kinda.