Facebook use is a predictor of depression

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/04/11/zuckerberg-eschatology.html


I read that paragraph and it does not say that facebook causes depression, it says that the relationships between lower well-being and facebook use is dynamic. We can’t tell from that whether high facebook use puts a person without other indicators of depression at higher risk of depression or whether it’s just that facebook and depression are a self-reinforcing spiral.

But also, that title on the linked article is very misleading. A link between facebook use and depression in the general population does not mean that if you use facebook, you will feel worse. Though, to be fair to the study, that might be like how if you smoke, you might not get lung cancer. I don’t see the correlation being that strong, though.



I wonder how Facebook compares to binge-watching Netflix, or regular TV. It’s a low-energy thing you can do to kill time, but also to some extent, shows you idealized images of people who have the illusion of having their shit together, and/or is a source of bad news and a depressing (in the unscientific sense) amount of human stupidity.


Maybe depressed people are self medicating with Facebook.

From my own experience with long term depression, I find that on my bad days I will have to try my best to distract myself from what my brain wants to think about. Facebook is a very easy way to do this. Television used to be another way of doing it.

Personally I use video games and fiction books. Facebook tends to make me feel worse, so I avoid it as much as possible.


Yes, you have a point there (in the unscientific sense). But I have supplied some evidence…


I homed in on that too. Maybe the issue is, if they just said that, they wouldn’t have much of a paper to write?


Or . . . people who don’t use Facebook are not sufficiently depressed.

I made a comment on there a while ago that my opinion of humanity had declined precipitously from watching the election through the lens of FB. I wish that I had stayed ignorant of most peoples rationale for their vote. From Left to Right people are controlled by their biases and don’t seem to have a clue about it. I am smart enough that I don’t exclude myself from those criticisms. Depressing? You betcha.


I assumed it was this, as opposed to Facebook use causing depression.

There is the flipside of that, too, in that you’re constantly comparing yourself to others on FB, who often post only the best moments, so that you totally feel inadequate by how great their lives are going compared to yours. Either way, it’s a recipe for depression.


This is just more data on correlates and confounds of “depression” (read: reported symptoms & behaviors that correlate to a depression diagnosis) rather than any real predictive model. Could be useful someday. Mostly just confirms observations of clinicians. I’d like to see more mixed-method or phenomenological studies on these topics - no money for that, though.


Or bring it around, the majority of your FB friends might be depressed, so you realize it’s really not so bad after all…


Actually it does.

we found that using Facebook was associated with a likelihood of diminished future well-being

I’m pretty sure that the above quote is actually saying causation.

what is Facebook?


I think there’s a bit of this effect with regard to broadcast TV as well. Everyone in the commercials has whiter shirts, a nicer car, and better hair than I do.

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I agree, but I think the difference is that the people on FB are people who are real, not actors. At least you have the notion that the people in commercials are acting out an idealized life to make a sale (even if it still can cause some feelings of inadequacy). On FB, it’s real people who are meant to be sharing their real life, even if it’s often a carefully curated one.


What I have read, and was trying to find, was that there were people looking to use data on Facebook usage to help people suffering from depression. What I recall is not that depressed people use Facebook, but that they used it at particular times, like more in the late nights, than people who were not mentally ill. There were scientists looking to use analysis of Facebook usage to target ads/create apps that would help identify people who were at risk and create some kind of intervention.


This seems so obvious to me. If someone has a predisposition to depression then facebook is going to exacerbate that or act as a catalyst. I’ve seen this first hand, and the only solution was quitting all social medias.


I think that’s part of it, too. But I think depending on what triggers one’s depression, it can also work to exacerbate it.