Your teenager may suffer from more than moodiness – about 11 percent of adolescents experience depression before reaching adulthood. And social media could be to blame.
Doctors have deemed “Facebook depression” as a common cause for teen issues: dysthymia (chronic depression), eating disorders, anxiety and even suicide. Teenagers, who may already feel insecure or dejected, see social media as a public popularity contest. Without enough friends, tagged pictures or “likes,” they could slip into anonymity and depression.
Dallas psychotherapist Denette Mann explained, “We are all meant to be tribal and to look for a support group. As a teenager, you’re desperately looking for your tribe, which is anxiety-producing in itself. In addition to that, teenagers are experiencing brain and hormone changes. So it’s the perfect storm for depression.”
Social Media Has Distorted Relationships
Facebook and similar sites have changed the way younger generations interact with each other. In his book “This Land of Strangers,” local author Robert E. Hall summarizes the phenomenon: “We have unprecedented access to information and exchanges with hundreds of relatives, friends, colleagues, and even businesses. Friend is no longer just a noun; it has been upgraded to a powerful verb.”
Avid Facebook users boast hundreds of friends, but spending hours online leaves them feeling isolated. Instead of finding acceptance from real human interaction, they post pictures in hopes of gaining “likes” from their followers.
Mann described the dangerous cycle: “When teens don’t feel important, pretty or popular, they use social media to prop themselves up. Then the people who read these posts think they are worthless. Both sides deal with self-esteem issues.”
Don’t Miss Your Teen’s Cries For Help
The symptoms of social media depression do not always align with classic signs of depression. Symptoms include:
Social isolation (or hyper-involvement)
Anxiety (or social anxiety)
Mann explained, “If there is high anxiety, depression is usually present. Instead of being withdrawn, depressed teens may be hyper-involved. So you think they’re over-excited, but you may not recognize depression.”
Rethink Social Media To Prevent Depression
The first step in preventing social media-induced depression in teens (and adults) is to recognize a possible addiction. Like other addictions, a reliance on social media can lead to depression.
In “This Land of Strangers,” Hall notes: “As we are less related and more isolated from each other, we become more dependent on technology, which exacerbates the situation. It is the perfect storm for addiction, serving as both the cause and result of a misplaced reliance that, instead of filling, empties us.”
Also, to avoid Facebook depression, remind teenagers that social media is not a reflection of reality. It is a distorted mirror showing the best aspects of other people’s lives. That’s why it is unfair and unhealthy to compare yourself to your Facebook friends.
Another way to prevent depression is to use social media as a tool for relationships and networks. For teenagers, this may be a foreign concept, as they correlate Facebook and friendship. But without human engagement, social media will lead to empty relationships.
The most important step in avoiding teen depression lies in the foundation of the parent’s relationship with his child. Mann said, “Parents have to prioritize their relationship with their teen. By the time the kid is a teen, the parent may feel like they’re done with their job. It’s not just being involved in their life. It’s about making their relationship a priority, and sometimes listening instead of talking.”