If you feel like you’re missing out when you look at social media you’re not alone.
Huntsville counselor, Dr. David Barnhart says the more we swipe, tap and send, the more we want to; and for many of us — especially the younger crowd — the more likely that may add up to digital depression.
Chelsea Jaudon and Hannah Barnes are like most teenage girls; they take a lot of selfies and share them on every “cool” social media site out there.
Some days they love it, some days they don’t.
“I compare everything,” said Jaudon. “So if I went on your Facebook, I’d say ‘I wish I had her hair, I wish my hair looked like that, I wish my make up looked like that, I wish I had that dress.'”
But even online popularity doesn’t promise positivity. Teenagers say likes and followers don’t deter the bullies.
“There’s pages like ‘something whores’ or ‘school district whores,’ stuff like that,” said Jaudon.
“They’ll make pages for the county of all the girls they don’t like, like girls’ nudes. People comment or share on it, so yeah, it’s prevalent,” said Barnes.
More than half of teens say they’ve been bullied via text or online.
“I remember times when it’s not on social media it really affects you,” said Eliza Warden. “And the fact that everyone can read it and see it? It’s even worse.”
But can you escape it? Many teens say they feel like they don’t even exist without an account.
“If someone tells me ‘I don’t have instagram, I think that’s a little weird,” said teenager, Zach.
Teenage boys are not immune to digital depression.
Zach and Ryan Langston say the fear of missing out can sometimes take a toll on teens’ self-esteems.
“I see my friends doing stuff and I’m like, ‘I wish I came,’ or ‘(I wish I) was invited,'” said Ryan.
“I feel like there’s pressure for me to put what picture looks good than just whatever,” said Zach.
Eating disorders and plastic surgery rates are also up, fueled by social media.
“People choose to share the most perfect moments… here’s what I looked like on this day when I’m going on a date,” said Warden. “But they don’t choose to show the sad, hard moments of life, which are more numerous than the perfect ones.”
Tennessee Valley counselors tell me body dimorphic disorder is a real problem; our culture’s extreme emphasis on social media is bringing clients in wth self-image concerns.
“There’s a chemical thing going on here when we check our phones,” said Dr. David Barnhart. “That reinforces our tendency to check our phones, so it becomes this kind of cycle that ends up keeping us less happy.”
Dr. Barnhart says it’s important to stay more in touch with objective reality than digital fantasy.
“If we don’t do that, then we tend to repeat the same pattern over and over again, because we’re not stopping and reflecting on what’s causing the emotions to be what they are.”
Dr. Barnhart encourages people to ponder and perhaps write down their thoughts. He also encourages people to openly discuss their feelings to those who’ve been there.
“Your value doesn’t depend on how many likes you get on a Facebook or Instagram picture,” said Brooke Johnson. “When you grow up in the real world, it’s who you are as a person.”
“I think they feel pressure to prove to their peers they’re having a good life and they’re having fun, even if they’re not having fun,” said Stuart Langston, a father to teenagers.
“I think social media can distort what reality is, and I think children can be especially vulnerable to that,” said Langston.
“It’s a very false way to think of life and other people,” said Warden. “People might choose to have this perfect profile, but underneath, they’re suffering.”
So if we feel a dabble of digital depression, let’s not pretend to be happy or convince others we are before we choose to be beyond our smiles on social media.
“Let’s maybe get away from the media, and more towards the social,” said Warden.
Dr. Barnhart often asks his patients if you had just one year left to live, how would you live it? Not too many people would say ‘spend it on social media,’ so it’s a great reminder of what’s important.