By Ashley Hocking
During the 83 days between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, I opt not to log on Facebook.
This stretch of time is also known as Engagement Season.
It’s nearly impossible for me to scroll through the feeds of my social media accounts during Engagement Season without seeing twentysomethings posting about their significant others popping the question, bridal showers, bachelorette parties and weddings.
Forty percent of engagements occur during Engagement Season, according to the Associated Press.
I’m not the only one who elects to avoid social media at certain times of the year. University of Kansas senior Megan Doolittle decided to avoid social media on Valentine’s Day after a recent breakup.
“I’m pretty sure he or his new girlfriend would have posted something, and I would have seen it,” Doolittle said. “It’s really hard when you’re in the midst of a break-up or even just feeling negative about your love life.”
Social media is a modern day tool that enables individuals to connect with friends, but also impacts the wellbeing of those using it.
Social media may help us connect with friends, but it also can depress the hell out of us.
Social media depression is the act of comparing yourself with others based on their on social media accounts.
Research by David Baker and Dr. Guillermo Perez Algorta from Lancaster University in Lancashire, England found that there is a significant association between feelings of depression and negatively comparing oneself with others when using Facebook.
Doolittle agrees with the findings of this research.
“Seeing how other people portray themselves on social media can affect you in a negative way,” Doolittle said. “It can cause a huge comparison effect and make you feel bad about yourself.”
Doolittle’s mom advised her to take a break from social media after seeing the negative effects it had on her daughter. Doolittle deactivated her Facebook account and deleted the Instagram app off of her phone.
“Social media is very toxic,” Doolittle said. “You’re almost all the time better off without it.”
Instagram is the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing, according to a 2017 survey by Time Magazine of 1,500 teens and young adults. This survey found that Instagram was associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and fear of missing out.
Social media depression and negative feelings associated with comparisons were some of the key factors that made Doolittle decide to scale back on her social media usage.
“When you look at someone’s social media, it seems like they have everything. They have a good job, a happy significant other, good grades, money and fun vacations,” Doolittle said. “Seeing other people are in a really cool location and you’re not there sucks. They’re going to this fun place, and I’m here just lying on my couch.”
Jeffrey Hall, an associate professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas, said that social media posts tend to focus on the positive moments in a person’s life. Hall is the author of over 40 articles and book chapters on flirting, relationships, social networking and Facebook.
“It’s not as normative to post negative things on social media,” Hall said. “You’re less likely to use social media to gain social support if you feel lonely or blue, than to advertise positive things.”
According to Hall, there are many people who consider curtailing their social media usage.
“Interestingly, a lot more people say that they would be interested in taking a break from social media than people who actually do,” Hall said.
Despite its negative connotations, people can use as a tool to combat feelings of social media depression. Researchers stress that social media can help people with depression if it is used as a mental health resource or a way to enhance social support.
“It’s very possible that you might turn to social media because you might feel like it might help to lift depression,” Hall said.