“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.” – Hafiz of Persia
It’s official: We, as a society, have now entered the Twilight Zone.
Or maybe we should call it the Depression Zone.
A new depressive disorder has developed due to a practice that scarcely existed a decade ago and which most people haven’t even known about until the last few years: Social networking.
The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study today that identifies a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression.” It is defined as “depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.”
Facebook and other social media sites can trigger depressive symptoms and even full-blown depressive episodes for a number of reasons. In addition to harassment, cyberbullying, and “sexting,” young people can feel as though their own lives are not as exciting as those of their “friends” on Facebook. When they see their online friends having relationships, participating in volunteer activities, winning games and awards, traveling, going to concerts and parties, or just having a good time, they can feel excluded, even isolated, or like “losers.”
It’s the 21st-century version of the “in crowd” vs. the “out crowd.”
When I was in high school, I was usually in the “out crowd” due to always being the new kid. I can remember sitting alone in the cafeteria, watching groups of girls sitting together and laughing, wondering if I would ever have any friends. They looked like they were having such a good time and as though they had known each other for ages. I assumed they had it made—a wonderful home life, boyfriends, and lots of fun things to do. I didn’t know anybody and felt unfettered, alien, and lonely. I learned to always carry a book with me so that I looked as though I were too busy to be bothered with anyone else; that way, no one would know what a loser I was.
In 12-Step programs, they call this “comparing my insides to other people’s outsides.” I call it the “I’m-not-good-enough syndrome.” In a nutshell: “You look as though you have it all together. I know I don’t have it all together; in fact, my life is a train wreck. Therefore, I must be inferior to you.” Whether you’re 16 or 60, this kind of distorted thinking can trigger a depressive episode in no time flat.
For this reason, it is essential to catch yourself whenever “I’m not good enough” thoughts dance across your brain and put a stop to them. Whether you are comparing yourself to a relative or close friend, a coworker, a neighbor, someone you’ve met through a professional organization, or an online acquaintance, do yourself a favor and recognize these four maxims:
1) Nobody is better than anybody else, no matter how good-looking, rich, or successful they are or how happy they appear to be. We are all equal in God’s eyes. The sooner you accept this, the more peace you will have.
2) Nobody is worse than anybody else. See #1.
3) All people have difficult times in their lives. The successful-looking businesswoman you met at a professional conference may have lost a child, be on her third marriage, or have at one time been a single mother on welfare. Don’t make assumptions.
4) It is self-indulgent to insist that you are not as good as others. You are, in essence, giving yourself an “out” to not live up to your potential. Make it your mission to do whatever it takes to improve your self-esteem. The more you value yourself, the more others will value you and be attracted to you.
In comparing ourselves to others, we give away our power to those we assume are better than we are and set ourselves up for depression. Take your power back by taking the DARE TO NOT COMPARE PLEDGE. Say aloud in front of a witness:
I, [your name here], from this day forward pledge to no longer compare myself to others. I no longer assume that anyone else is better than I or that I am worse than anyone else. I choose to believe the essential truth that my worth is intrinsic and my gifts are valuable. I will do whatever it takes to bust old beliefs and patterns of thought, and to improve my self-esteem. So help me God.
If you’ve decided to take the pledge, please leave a comment below. And share this opportunity with others, particularly young people who might be suffering from “Facebook depression.” Together, we can create a world free of depression!
(c) 2011 by Patricia R. Henschen, M.A.