Why You Should Just Say ‘No’ to Facebook (Sometimes)

I am happy to introduce marriage and family therapist Sarah Schmermund to our blog. She will be writing weekly about all things dating and relationships. I love her first blog about Facebook, which can be a great addition to our lives, but also detrimental if you aren’t careful (and keep things in healthy perspective)!

facebook negative effectsIf you use Facebook, you may be familiar with the frustration, loneliness, jealousy, or general dissatisfaction that comes with seeing everyone else you “know” living-it-up, getting married, making babies, traveling, and all the other wonderful and/or random things people broadcast via the social media site.

And thanks to a recent study, you may also be relieved to find that you’re not alone. A research team in the UK recently reported that “one in three people felt worse after visiting the site and more dissatisfied with their lives.” Researchers also noted that viewing pictures of others’ vacations elicited the most incidents of envy by study participants, followed by comparisons of social interaction (i.e. comparing how many birthday wishes you got with how many that girl you met once at that party three years ago received).

Subsequently, these envious reactions often prompted users to then post exaggerated or overly-boastful achievements to present themselves in a more attractive way.  So, the stories and pictures in our news feeds that we’re viewing (and reacting to ourselves) may often be someone else’s reaction to whatever is in their news feed.

Imagine a weary, jaded, and involuntarily single woman who jumps onto Facebook one evening looking for a distraction from yet another less-than-ideal first date, only to find a college friend’s photo depicting her new engagement ring and the couple’s happily-ever-after bliss. As she recalls an evening that offered no such prospective bliss, she begins to make judgments about herself as a woman and her future relationship potential (or lack thereof). While not unlike the comparisons and judgments we make in line at the grocery store or at a party, these opportunities for comparison are much more frequent and without the greater context. What that small instance in the photo doesn’t show is the bigger picture. The bigger picture, with underwhelming date nights and arguments and the silent treatment and wondering “are we really going to make it?”, is not as blissful as we imagine.

But with Facebook, we’re now regularly comparing our average situation to a small, “perfect” sampling of someone else’s.

So instead, just say “No!” to Facebook. No to clicking through hundreds of vacation photos when you can’t even remember where your swimsuit is; no to posts of weddings or anniversary trips when you’ve recently gotten divorced; no to all of it.

Particularly when you’re feeling stressed, worried, or unhappy about something, take a break from the social network. Spend some real face time with some real friends. Get in some extra quality time with your family.  Sit down with a new book or project, or start tackling a new goal at the gym. Take time to appreciate the things that are going well in your life. With a break from self-doubt and constant comparisons, you can eventually return to Facebook with a more solid understanding and appreciation for your situation, no matter what it is, without counting how many people “like” it.

Sarah Schmermund specializes in marriage and family therapy, working with couples, individuals, and families via her private practice in Washington, D.C.

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