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Facebook Part 1: Not good for mental health?

This is part 1 
of a 2 part series

I popped onto Facebook today to see what i had been missing over the last few days. It made me feel like crap, and not for the first time. The very worst thing you can do to cheer yourself up is go on facebook.

Regular readers will know that the last few years have been a mish-mash of hospital visits and operations. Since January i have not gone more than a couple of weeks without having surgery. With it comes the usual stresses and strains that you would expect from pain, disruption and disappointment, but i have continued to feel fairly positive...until i go on facebook.

Research shows that Facebook users make use of subconscious selective broadcasting, and very careful 'life editing' in order to make themselves look exciting, popular and appear like things in their life are awesome. We are all guilty of it, here are two examples from my own fb page.

"hanging pretty badly...gonna mooch down to the riverside festival to see if they have any hotdogs to clear my head
"everythings a bit wavey, and my throats a bit sore...sign of a sweet night" 

I got out of hospital at 10pm last night, and would love to be out and my newsfeed consisted of things like this. I wish i could be doing this sort of thing. But i can't, and seeing other peoples statuses similar to the above examples made me feel a bit lonely and isolated. I'm not ashamed to admit that, its a natural feeling that we all get sometimes. ill health is only temporary, and when i am better i will be out and about in beer gardens, drinking too much, having perfect nights and lush days. I worry about people who's isolation is long term.

My little insight into how shit Facebook can make people feel made me realise how dangerous it could be to those vulnerable due to long term physical ill health, mental health, or those being bullied or victimised. I can only imagine that the negative effects of Facebook are multiplied many times compared to how i felt.

I also wonder if Facebook gives us too much knowledge about our 'friends'. I rarely tell my actual friends that i am in hospital, but on this occasion i told a couple of them. They couldn't i know why. I think i would have preferred not to know.

There are some people who are transparent in their 'life editing' attempts. They go to great lengths to make it look like they are having fun and interesting lives. This is an example of a mental health problem (in the widest sense of the phrase) being played out on the internet, amongst people who have no understanding, no empathy, and if given the opportunity would make it worse rather than better. It's heart breaking to see someone reach out for help to a community that is only concerned with its own image.

The most damaging thing about Facebook is the 'boasting'. I alluded to it above, but it can be much worse when someone is boasting about their particular successes. You see someone announce that they have achieved something that you have been working hard to achieve. When you are feeling vulnerable this can leave you spiralling into a pit of despair, worthlessness or inadequacy...and certainly jealousy.

It's almost certain that your own such announcements have made someone else feel like that at some point as well...we are all subconsciously kicking each other when we are down. This cannot be a healthy website to be part of?

What's sad is that a good friend, when seen through the rose tinted glasses of Facebook, can make you feel like 10 tons of shit. Does this make them a bad 'real life' friend? Almost certainly not, but it can taint ones perception of the value of the friendship. I think you have to close your Facebook account, shake off the shackles of unreality, and reassess friendships for what they actually are.

There are types of social media that can be productive and positive. I have found blogging a great way to occupy me while i am out of action. I think we have to look beyond Facebook because we are fooling ourselves and potentially hurting the people closest to us.

To finish, i would like to go back to a personal note. While researching this topic i was disturbed by what i found. I should close my Facebook account immediately, but there are a lot of people who i would miss talking to. So there must be a positive way to use Facebook right? 

The answer awaits you in part 2