Facebook and Co: Social networks are clearly depressing

Facebook and Co: Social networks are clearly depressing

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New study: Passive use of social networks promotes depressive symptoms

Most users of social networks show their lives in the respective profiles from the sunny side. If you look at the posts, you can easily get the impression that everyone else is better off than yourself. According to a new study, especially people who use Facebook and Co passively are at risk of developing depressive symptoms.

Posts usually show the sunny side of life

Children and young people in particular often spend many hours on social networks. Those who post a lot usually post photos of positive events such as a cool party, a great concert or a spectacular vacation. If you look around on Facebook and Co, you can quickly get problems with your self-esteem, because supposedly everyone has a better life than yourself. A study has now shown that especially people who use social networks passively, therefore not themselves and tend to compare to others who are at risk of developing depressive symptoms.

Contradictory study results

So far, the question of whether the use of social networks can cause depressive tendencies has been answered contradictingly.

For example, a few months ago, scientists from the University of Oxford reported on a study that concluded that social media does not make adolescents depressed.

But researchers at University College London said earlier this year that social networks can very well cause depression in young people.

And a recent study by the University of Montreal found that social media promotes depression in children and adolescents.

A team in psychology from the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) led by Dr. Phillip Ozimek now also reports on the risk of becoming depressed through Facebook and Co.

An experimental and two questionnaire studies were carried out

In order to clarify whether the use of social networks can cause depressive tendencies, the researchers from Bochum carried out one experimental and two questionnaire studies.

According to a statement from the university, the researchers in the first study had two groups of test subjects write out information about the first five people they saw either on their Facebook wall or on the staff website of the Catholic Theological Faculty of the RUB for five minutes.

A third group skipped this task. All three groups then filled out a questionnaire that provided information about their self-esteem.

The results are reported in the journal "Behavior and Information Technology".

Lower self-esteem

"It has been shown that the confrontation with social information on the Internet - which is selective on Facebook as well as on the employee side and only positive and advantageous - leads to a lower self-esteem," reports Dr. Ozimek.

Because low self-esteem is closely related to depressive symptoms, researchers see a short-term impact as a potential source of danger.

The long-term perspective was examined using questionnaire studies. The researchers surveyed over 800 people about their Facebook use, their tendency to compare themselves with others, their self-esteem and the occurrence of depressive symptoms.

It has been shown that there is a positive connection between passive Facebook use and depressive symptoms when test subjects have an increased need for social comparisons of their abilities.

“So if I have a strong need for comparisons and keep seeing on the Internet on my homepage that others have great vacations, make great deals, buy expensive and great things while I see the cloudy weather outside from my office, that lowers it my self-worth, ”said Ozimek.

"And if I experience this day after day and over and over again, it can favor higher long-term depressive tendencies."

Similar results in professional networks

In a third study, the scientists used a questionnaire to investigate whether their findings could also be transferred to other networks.

Because professional networks work a little differently, they chose Xing. "Although you also operate a glossy profile, you stay on the carpet to look as authentic but positive as possible," explains Ozimek.

According to the information, the evaluation gave a very similar result to the Facebook study.

The type of use is decisive

"Overall, we were able to show that the use of social networks does not generally and directly lead to depression or is related to it, but that certain conditions and a certain type of use increase the risk of depressive tendencies," explains Ozimek.

According to the experts, private and professional social networks can favor higher levels of depression if users are mainly passive on the go, compare themselves socially with others and these comparisons have a negative impact on their self-worth.

"It is important that this impression that everyone is better off can be an absolute fallacy," says the psychologist.

“In fact, very few people post negative experiences and experiences on social media. However, the fact that we are flooded with these positive experiences online gives us a completely different impression. ”(Ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Ruhr University Bochum (RUB): Depressed by Facebook and Co., (accessed: July 21, 2019), Ruhr University Bochum (RUB)
  • Journal "Behavior and Information Technology": All my online-friends are better than me - three studies about ability-based comparative social media use, self-esteem, and depressive tendencies, (accessed: 07/21/2019), Behavior and Information Technology

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