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What You Need to Remember If Social Media Impacts Your Depression

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If you battle depression, then you already know how hard it is to get through the day. Any day. The number of people affected by depression and anxiety is on the rise. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2015 an estimated 322 million people were living with depression, making it the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. That’s an increase of over 18 percent from 2005-2015. In the US, about 16.2 million adults experienced at least one major depressive episode during the previous year. That’s around 7 percent of the population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Some of this rise is due to people being more self-aware and knowledgeable about the mental illnesses; the stigma of mental health disorders is slowly fading. But there is another aspect of modern-day life that can severely impact depression on a number of levels. We live in a world of instant gratification, where anything we could possibly want is at our fingertips. We live in a world of social media, where we can keep up with friends and family who are far away in a matter of seconds.

In a world of instant gratification, those who struggle with depression take hits every day. Society says we can have whatever we want, whenever we want it, and when (for whatever reason) we don’t get what we want, those of us with depression spiral downward.

Think about it. We see friends and family post pictures and status updates on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram, to name a few. We see other people’s lives and follow them closely, as if we know what’s really going on behind the scenes. When you live with depression, it’s almost impossible not to compare your life with someone else’s. And no matter who it is, or what the situation is, there’s always going to be someone out there we wish we were like, or we wish we had what they have. We want it, and for our own reasons and life situations, we don’t have it. Thus, instant gratification is not accomplished.

But here’s the truth behind it: Think about what you post on social media yourself. You certainly don’t post about how depressed you are, that you can’t even get off the couch, there’s a pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen and mounds of laundry in the basement, the floors need swept, your kids need a bath, and you’ve eaten Ramen noodles and fed your kids chicken nuggets for a week. No, we don’t post those things because we know how it sounds. No one wants to be judged, so we don’t put those things out there.

Guess what? People who don’t struggle with depression don’t post that crap either. They don’t want you to know that this month, they couldn’t make their full mortgage, or they’re behind on a car payment or that they had to borrow money from a parent to put one of their kids in an extracurricular activity. No, they don’t want you to know those things. They want you to see a successful, homegrown, pure and full life. But it’s a lie.

Sure, there are plenty of successful people out there who are genuine in their posting and sharing. But for the vast majority, it’s a front, something they want everyone else to see because deep down, they are insecure and embarrassed. That mom who constantly posts about being crafty and making all kinds of cool things with her kids — her house is a disaster. That mom who says her house is spotless — her kids eat fast food on a regular basis. That dad who takes his kids fishing and camping every weekend in the summer — during the week, he’s absent. That aunt who raves about her nieces and nephews and does so much for them — she can’t have kids.

No, not everyone falls under this umbrella. But the next time you see someone you know and love posting amazing pictures and statuses, take a step back. Look a little deeper. Read between the lines. Everyone battles something in their lives, whether it be physical or mental or circumstantial. Thinking you need to achieve what someone else has in order to be successful throws a shadow over what you’re truly capable of.

Instant gratification plays a big part in today’s mental health battle. When we can’t have what we want, we become depressed. That depression can spiral out of control, and we become couch-locked. Unable to contribute to society in a positive way, or so we think, we withdraw and pull away from those closest to us.

Stop comparing your life to anyone else’s. Just stop. If it means getting off social media, do it. Personally, I’ve been known to disappear from social media for weeks at a time. With all of the negativity in today’s world, and the number of children who are ill or fighting a disease, I have to take regular breaks or I will find myself spinning out of control. Take it from someone who knows. Your life is yours. No one can tell you how to live it or make your decisions for you. You are the driver, and every road has bumps.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

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Getty Images photo via StphaneLemire

Originally published: February 8, 2018
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