I saw an article this week on Facebook Depression – basically the idea that people who don’t have many friends on Facebook or whose friends don’t interact much with them can become depressed and suicidal. I suppose if you’re socially awkward or withdrawn normally, your Facebook life would reflect your normal life. Everything we do is a reflection of us anyway. The article makes a valid point, but omits one glaring and serious fact – our experience is what we make it.
Facebook may be depressing for some, but for others, it is amazing. For others it is a way to connect with friends all over the world that they might not have been able to afford to call or wouldn’t have felt comfortable writing. Facebook has made it possible for people to look up relatives they knew existed but had no idea how to contact. It has made that initial reach out to someone you wish you still knew just a little bit less scary and therefore; infinitely more possible. It has renewed relationships and friendships that people thought we lost and provides hope that we may get so see someone again, someday… if they’re on Facebook.
Sure, we may get annoyed when we see a lot of negative statuses, but Facebook forces us to accept that some people are complainers. If we cannot accept it, Facebook gives us the option to walk away, unseen, unnoticed, until we choose otherwise. It gives us an opportunity to support each other that we didn’t have in the past, not because we didn’t care, but because we didn’t know. We’ve learned that we can empathize with people we haven’t seen in years and simply because we were once on the same team or went to the same school. Those people, even if they exist in your life only when you want them to, by extension, enrich or diminish that part of your life only if you let them.
I can’t ignore that a lot of my friends are struggling, but I know for sure that Facebook is not the cause of their struggle. Their struggles are with their health, their relationships, their jobs or lack of them, and the frustrations of every day. Facebook allows us all to garner the support we need to wage daily war against the harshness and cruelty of life, even if it’s just in the knowledge that someone else is going through that too, and there is someone out there who does, indeed, know where we are coming from. Their status proves it.
Does Facebook cause depression? Maybe for some people it does, but it also weakens it. Facebook virtually fills the holes where depression would entrench itself until people we are connected with in the real world can take over. Our experience with Facebook is about how we choose to use it. Zuckerberg gave us a power we didn’t have – to positively or negatively affect people’s lives without being in the same room. How we use it is up to us.