If we were to do a self-evaluation what would be the symptoms you would describe? Would you say, “trouble focusing, fatigue, decreased interest, less socializing and a desire to be spending more time alone?” Well, these are just some of the symptoms associated with depression.
Did you know that increased time on social media and the internet has been linked to an increase in depression? In fact, an article posted to the US National Library of Medicine writes that several studies draw a connection to “prolonged use of social networking sites, such as Facebook, may be related to signs and symptoms of depression.”
The first symptom listed above is having trouble with focusing. It has been noted in many research articles that digital media is eroding our ability to focus. AND we don’t have to read the research to know this is in fact, a problem. All we have to do is reflect. If we don’t like what we see, we just click until we find something we do like. Instant change! Instant gratification! But even reflection has become difficult since our everyday life seems to mirror our internet habits.
Constant changing and what we call pop-ups are interrupting a thought preventing us to finish a thought. This is exhausting!
Next, it takes energy to manage self-interests and socializing. You may experience feeling uncomfortable, judged or even indifferent when you are around other people in different situations. And, if a person already is struggling with low self-esteem, they will certainly want to avoid situations where these feelings might creep up. But, what about faking it? Pretending that everything is fine and that you are happy and satisfied. This takes tons of energy!
You see, we have only scratched the surface of how physical social withdrawal can feed into and actually promote depressed mood. We tell ourselves that because I can’t focus, I’m tired, or I feel socially awkward, I’ll sit this one out. So what do we do? We replace physical contact with the internet because if doesn’t challenge, judge or confront us. This is actually more harmful than helpful in the long run. Face to face connectivity should not be replaced with technology. We need to seek out opportunities to connect with positive healthy balanced people.
Why? Because when we are connecting with others the neurochemical oxytocin is released. This influences the depressed brain improving connectivity with others. It may feel more natural to withdraw from social connections, but it is not as helpful as it might appear. Oxytocin is the love and bonding neurochemical. Now, I don’t want to get too technical because other neurochemicals such as serotonin which contribute to balancing mood. But what I will say is that if we spend too much time alone, we gradually begin to believe that we don’t fit in, we are in the way, or nobody cares if I’m there or not. Your withdrawal or retreat creates a vacuum for negative self-talk, self-criticism and even hyper-criticism of others.
Research shows the negative effects of too much time online. We have to be mindful of how we are spending our time. If you struggle with depression and you are replacing face to face contact with social media then you are doing more harm than good to your depressed brain.
In fact, if you can relate to this blog and you find yourself stuck and depressed, then I encourage you to take the beginning steps to healing.
There are many options available to activating change and detoxing from social media that is contributing to your depressed mood. There is not a one-size fits all counseling, self-help, medication or step-by-step program to improve your mood. Research reveals that it is probably a combination of all or some of these. The key is finding the right balance.
Take the beginning steps to reclaim balance and start setting social media boundaries as a step toward improving your mood. The change you seek begins with the first step.