Depression, Loneliness, & Facebook


I have had a really rough week.  Why?  Because my depression reared its ugly little head and made me feel worse than I can ever remember feeling.  I completely lacked motivation to get out of bed (and stay out instead of crawling back in defeat a few hours later), and I was absolutely overcome by confusing and random crying bouts and a pervasive sense of despair.

Depression sucks -- and sucks my soul.  We're talking Dementor level sucking here, people.  It's bad. 

Given my state of mind this week, I find it interesting that I ran across several articles discussing the connection between high levels of Facebook use and increased feelings of depression and loneliness.  For example, Lisa Haisha of HuffPo wonders if a Facebook addiction is a sign of loneliness, while an older cnet news article links Facebook with depression in teenage girls.  I also found this video quite interesting:

As a work-from-home gal who practically exists on the computer and ye olde internets from nine to five, I can't help but wonder if my high usage of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and even blogs (yes, I see the irony here).  Add that to the fact that I already grapple with depression and loneliness and you can bet that I'm considering deleting my Facebook account.

On the other hand, though, I receive a lot of [what feels like] very real support through the internet.  For example, my Twitter lurking helped me to "meet" and fall in with a fun and encouraging group of young women who are fellow aspiring novelists.  I can reach out on Facebook to make plans with friends, and my blog reading and writing has led me to make wonderful friends that I would otherwise never have met.

In addition to feel down, I have also been struggling with what to do with the newly finished first draft of my novel-in-progress.  I hemmed and hawed and whined about it for a while, then eventually sent the darn thing off (via email) to Steph, an old NaNoWriMo friend, after she offered to read.  Not only did she read the draft at the speed of light, but she also filled my inbox with several emails of encouragement, questions, and insights that have given me a place to start with my revisions.

And that's not the best part.  A few days later, an unexpected package arrived in the mail from Amazon.  I opened it and found -- a present from my NaNoWriMo friend.  She had bought me a book she had recommended in one of her rich emails.  This young woman that I have not seen in person since probably early 2006 (and the in-person meeting was a brief one) blessed me immensely -- using the internet.  If it wasn't for email and GoodReads and our blogification, I would never have stayed connected with her.  Which means that she wouldn't have been able to bust through my loneliness so effectively this week.  Thank you, Steph!

In quite a few cases like Steph's generous book-sending, I find the internet and specifically social networking to be an asset.  But I'm not sure that that extends to Facebook . . . or to compulsive inbox refreshing . . . or following Twitter's pithy blurbs with zombie eyes for an hour straight.  So I think I'm going to cut down on my social networking.  Not because I necessarily feel that Facebook and similar sites cause depression and loneliness, but because I feel like they exacerbate my already present proclivities toward depression and loneliness.

What do you think (and I know this is something of a loaded question to put on a blog of all things) -- are social networking sites like Facebook friend or foe to those prone to depression and isolation?

p.s. I changed the blog's layout!  Enjoy that lovely and soothing header, blog friends.

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