More and more seniors are using Facebook to connect with family and friends. When mobility challenges, retirement or the loss of spouse and friends make it harder to be socially active, social media can be a good way to supplement in-person social activity. Seniors are the fastest-growing group to use Facebook, and studies show that online socialization has certain similar benefits to spending time in the physical presence of others.
So it might be surprising to learn that a research team from the University of Houston warns people that using Facebook can be linked with depressive symptoms in certain circumstances. What would account for this? According to researcher Mai-Ly Steers, if we spend our Facebook time primarily comparing our lives to those of others, we can end up feeling sad.
According to the study, “The concept of social comparison is not new. In fact, it has been studied in face-to-face contexts since the 1950s. However, engaging in social comparisons on online social media sites may make people feel even worse.”
Why would this be? First of all, says Steers, Facebook can give us more information about people than we get in real life—including frequent updates about what friends and acquaintance are doing and accomplishing. And here’s another thing to remember, given human nature: According to Steers, “Most of our Facebook friends tend to post about the good things that occur in their lives, while leaving out the bad. If we’re comparing ourselves to our friends’ ‘highlight reels,’ this may lead us to think their lives are better than they actually are and conversely, make us feel worse about our own lives.”
Not much good comes of comparing ourselves to others! So remember—next time an old chum sends you a friend request, they no doubt carefully selected the most flattering profile photo, and they’re most likely to post photos of that Hawaii vacation, versus the weekend they spent doing laundry. Enjoy your friends’ accomplishments, but remember—just as in real life, there’s not much to gain from comparing ourselves to others. And even as your friends are putting their best foot forward on their Facebook wall, they may be comparing themselves unfavorably to you!
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on study from University of Houston