Friday, March 4, 2011

Depression, Loneliness, & Facebook


I have had a really rough week.  Why?  Because my depression reared its ugly little head and made me feel worse than I can ever remember feeling.  I completely lacked motivation to get out of bed (and stay out instead of crawling back in defeat a few hours later), and I was absolutely overcome by confusing and random crying bouts and a pervasive sense of despair.

Depression sucks -- and sucks my soul.  We're talking Dementor level sucking here, people.  It's bad. 

Given my state of mind this week, I find it interesting that I ran across several articles discussing the connection between high levels of Facebook use and increased feelings of depression and loneliness.  For example, Lisa Haisha of HuffPo wonders if a Facebook addiction is a sign of loneliness, while an older cnet news article links Facebook with depression in teenage girls.  I also found this video quite interesting:

As a work-from-home gal who practically exists on the computer and ye olde internets from nine to five, I can't help but wonder if my high usage of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and even blogs (yes, I see the irony here).  Add that to the fact that I already grapple with depression and loneliness and you can bet that I'm considering deleting my Facebook account.

On the other hand, though, I receive a lot of [what feels like] very real support through the internet.  For example, my Twitter lurking helped me to "meet" and fall in with a fun and encouraging group of young women who are fellow aspiring novelists.  I can reach out on Facebook to make plans with friends, and my blog reading and writing has led me to make wonderful friends that I would otherwise never have met.

In addition to feel down, I have also been struggling with what to do with the newly finished first draft of my novel-in-progress.  I hemmed and hawed and whined about it for a while, then eventually sent the darn thing off (via email) to Steph, an old NaNoWriMo friend, after she offered to read.  Not only did she read the draft at the speed of light, but she also filled my inbox with several emails of encouragement, questions, and insights that have given me a place to start with my revisions.

And that's not the best part.  A few days later, an unexpected package arrived in the mail from Amazon.  I opened it and found -- a present from my NaNoWriMo friend.  She had bought me a book she had recommended in one of her rich emails.  This young woman that I have not seen in person since probably early 2006 (and the in-person meeting was a brief one) blessed me immensely -- using the internet.  If it wasn't for email and GoodReads and our blogification, I would never have stayed connected with her.  Which means that she wouldn't have been able to bust through my loneliness so effectively this week.  Thank you, Steph!

In quite a few cases like Steph's generous book-sending, I find the internet and specifically social networking to be an asset.  But I'm not sure that that extends to Facebook . . . or to compulsive inbox refreshing . . . or following Twitter's pithy blurbs with zombie eyes for an hour straight.  So I think I'm going to cut down on my social networking.  Not because I necessarily feel that Facebook and similar sites cause depression and loneliness, but because I feel like they exacerbate my already present proclivities toward depression and loneliness.

What do you think (and I know this is something of a loaded question to put on a blog of all things) -- are social networking sites like Facebook friend or foe to those prone to depression and isolation?

p.s. I changed the blog's layout!  Enjoy that lovely and soothing header, blog friends.


  1. I love social media in all of it's forms, but I find that it lets me avoid meeting people in real life because I can "keep up" with them on facebook and twitter. Lately, my goal has been to get together in person with my friends too.I love the new header! Makes me want spring and summer :)

  2. Beth, I hope you're feeling better now. Depression is one of the hardest things to deal with, I think. And I do agree that social network use can make it worse. I know that when I'm feeling emotionally vulnerable, I give far more weight to the responses (or lack of responses) to my Hoop City posts than I would otherwise.At the same time, though, there have been days when the encouragment of other hoopers at HC or comments on my blog has been just the thing to get me out of a funk.Like your blog's tagline reminds us, it's all about finding that balance, which is something we all strive to achieve.And as for the blog itself, I love the new template. The photo up top is beautiful, and the page is uncluttered and easy on the eyes. :)

  3. Interesting post...had never thought about it. I have however (and I know I am in a minority here) said no to all three of those social linking sites. I tried facebook because I do see the value in it but stopped because it just made me feel uncomfortable in so many ways. There is something really to be said for interactions but it never really felt all that honest and whole-hearted. Again, that could be me but I don't feel weird not doing it. Good luck and here's wishing you happiness.

  4. Beth @ To the FullesMarch 4, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    Darn I wish Blogger's interface had a "reply" option like I guess all I'll say is THANK YOU for the insightful and sweet comments, wonderful women!

  5. Wow, I feel like I could have written the first part of this post. I'm struggling now, and just in the past 2 days have things mildly improved. It takes a therapist and lots of medication to keep me stable and even then it's no guarantee (which I'm reminded of these past few weeks).Keep chugging along, we'll get through this. We always do!

  6. I think you could be onto something with the connection. However, I bet trying to even the balance of online social life to real life social experiences would help. I fall into that depression too. When I feel like I have no friends and haven't seen anybody but Johnny for days.

  7. blametheweathermanMarch 4, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    Oh Beth :( <3I can see how Facebook could encourage depression - it's like high school, but in documented internet form. Sometimes, I want to delete mine, too.I hope you get to feeling better, darling. I miss you :(

  8. Beth @ To the FullesMarch 4, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    @ DawnRose I hate that other people feel like this (depressed, I mean) but at the same time it's good to know that I'm not alone. We can make it!@ Melissa I miss my Twitter Critters, too! I'm so excited for your new story. Yay! As for the Facebook/high school comparison, I must admit that I have only had a positive experience on Facebook. It connects me to the hooping community (which is apparently everywhere but in my city! lol) and my local friends and high school/college friends, but still . . . there's a disconnect. Ironic, perhaps, but after I "connect" with people on Facebook, I log off and feel empty relationally. I think I need to spend more face-to-face time with people. :)

  9. Stephanie (dancingwaMarch 4, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    *le sigh* I just typed out a response, and it got eaten. I won't try to recreate. Maybe it was the internet's way of saying to stop being so wordy.I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations, and am excited to see where you go with the novel. It was so intriguing! And I'm glad we've kept in touch. Yay for 2005 NaNo Missoula!And I think that there really is a balance to strike with the internet and social media. That when I'm not able to connect with it, even briefly, I miss it. It's like not getting to see my friends. At the same time, when I'm not online, it usually means I'm engaged in other things, and engagement is good. :)For me, I more appreciate blogging and thoughtful places. That there *is* space to be thoughtful and more honest and open, but sometimes, the social media aspect (especially things like Twitter) don't allow for it. At the same time, this media allow us to think about what we're going to respond (case in point - I read this entry at work today, but knew that I wanted to respond more deeply to it than I was able to, so I marked it unread, to remind me to come back tonight).Also, the variety of community that *is* possible is wonderful - if it wasn't for my LiveJournal community during graduate school, I probably wouldn't have made it through.At the same time, there are times that I sit and hit refresh and just feel more lonely, like I'm the only one online that isn't being engaged (I know, silly, but I'm also the girl who spent an hour long train ride in France looking up different words for "lonely" because I was so lonely).Like TraciB commented - it's a balance. And that balance shifts and changes. It's not always the same.StephPS - Love the new layout! So lovely!

  10. I am so sorry you are dealing with a nasty round of depression. I can be so hard sometimes. Your head knows that there will be an end but your heart cannot see it. I absolutely think social networks and increased screen time in general greatly contributes to depression, lonliness, and isolation. The more I "use" the worse off I am. I have went on many little screen fasts and I do much better when I hold my time o the computer under strict contol.

  11. Hope you are feeling better by now (I am always behind...) but did want to say that I ofetn worry about my blog reading addiction...that may be a sign of loneliness.

  12. I work in a sales, and am never lacking in company/social interactions, but I still feel isolated because that company is more about convenience and happenstance rather than feeling connected to, and sharing deep interests with, said company. I actually feel a deeper connection with some people I've not met IRL than the ones I work with/interact with on a near daily basis.I know this may sound weird, but I have SO many strangers in my face day in and day out, that I LOVE Twitter/blogging BECAUSE I can focus on the people that matter most to me. All of my "close connections" actually live VERY far away (I live in Indy; my family are spread throughout both coasts) and the internet allows me to keep up with them!PLUS, I work so often, that I don't get to see my local friends but once per month, if that!I am SO grateful to have found awesome people (like YOU!) that I can call my friend and I credit Twitter/blogging for that!

  13. What an insightful article. You guys are amazing, i like the way you describe every single point so carefully. This can help people and i must come again and again to read such an informational articles.


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