MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Facebook, MySpace and Twitter — most of us are on at least one. In fact, social networking has become such a part of our lives that there was even a movie made about it. Now, several new studies suggest that sites that are supposed to keep you connected, can actually leave you feeling depressed.
Amanda Oleson never met a Tweet she didn’t like, she has nearly 1,600 followers on Twitter and stays active on Facebook, too.
“I probably post 10 to 15 times a day. Maybe more than that on days I’m really involved in conversation,” said Oleson.
However, Amanda knows that what she sees from her friends online isn’t always the whole story.
“Pictures? Why would you post something unflattering of yourself? Then people from high school are going to know that you aren’t doing spectacular,” said Oleson.
The link between social networking and depression is called the “social comparison” theory.
“I think it’s human nature to compare yourself to a rival or a good friend or an ex-boyfriend,” said Shayla Thiel-Stern.
Thiel-Stern has been studying social media for years. She teaches classes about social networking at the University of Minnesota and even encourages her students to Tweet during class.
She understands how those who have a tendency to dwell on things, particularly teenagers and younger adults, can be influenced by what they see online. For example, an ex-girlfriend is now married and has kids or a high school rival has a better job than yours.
“I think a lot of it has to do with who these people are and do you respect their opinions. Are they from your past? I think it’s sort of nice to have the immediate, positive reinforcement,” said Thiel-Stern.
That’s the other side. When someone likes your Facebook photo or accepts your friend request, it can make your day.
“If somebody likes a photo of mine, I feel good. I get a rush,” said Eric Mueller, a freshman at the University of Minnesota.
The key to staying happy is learning not to compare yourself at all. Researchers say don’t believe everything you read because it’s not always the whole truth. Many of the ex-girlfriend or boyfriend’s bad photos aren’t making it online, nor is the news about the promotion they didn’t get.
According to Oleson, learn to take what you see with a grain of salt.
“I hope it doesn’t run my life. I’m pretty connected, but I don’t think it’s taking over,” said Oleson.