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Social Media and the Rise of Facebook Syndrome, Shopping will never buy you…

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Volume 17, Issue 3

Social Media and the Rise of Facebook Syndrome

No doubt, the incredible growth of social media has changed the world. Communication is now reduced to 140 characters or less. People can multi-chat, having several chat and instant messaging threads open at a time. Several decades ago, journals or diaries (often kept private or even hidden) were the primary form of logging our daily activities, thoughts and challenges. Today, the social norm is to “bare it all” on social media. Have something to celebrate? Post it on Facebook! Dreading tomorrow’s interview? Tweet it! Fighting with your honey? Blog about it! Have a stroke of insight? Post it on Instagram! The list of social media outlets continues to grow exponentially.

Of all social media sites, Facebook is one of the most accessed, with more than one billion registered users, and one-half of those users signing on daily to their accounts. It is a global phenomenon that boasts seventy languages on its site. Seventy-five percent of all users are from countries outside the United States.

Social Impact

The impact of social media on people’s daily lives and activities has been profound. Because of the availability of social media on mobile devices, social media allows continuous contact among users worldwide.

Our self-esteem can drop based on our perceptions of others’ success and joy, as portrayed through social media. Vacation and holiday photos may trigger feelings of resentment. Comments about family happiness and images of physical beauty may spark feelings of loneliness and dis- satisfaction with our own lives. Social media lends itself to comparison: “I’m not as cheerful and upbeat as my friends,””I wish I could post inspirational ideas like Michelle does,””Jane has 487 friends; I only have 52, Jack just posted a whole bunch of pictures from his vacation; I’d never have the money to do something like that,””@goodtimes sure gets to see the town; I never go out anymore.”

The popular feature of “friending” people on Facebook is countered by the ability to “unfriend” others. With social media, “unfriending”, “unfollowing” and “unconnecting”(as in LinkedIn) can be interpreted as a rejection, snub or insult; it is rarely a mutual decision. Especially for children, “unfriending” can be very detrimental to self- esteem.

Social media does not stimulate thoughtful and reciprocal conversation. Even with the use of emoticons, there is really no ability to read non-verbals, such as tone, body language, facial expressions—and therefore increases the likelihood of misunderstanding.

If these issues weren’t concern enough, the sheer proportion of time spent on social media compared to live relationships erodes our ability to connect with others at anything other than a superficial level. We may be very active on social media, have hundreds of “friends”, and still be profoundly lonely. Virtual reality becomes into our primary reality.

Facebook Syndrome

Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerburg, readily admits he never intended for his invention to become a way of life. But that is exactly what engagement with social media has become for many users. It gives their lives meaning. The question is, “what kind of meaning?” Use of social media isn’t inherently bad. Social media has allowed the world to connect in spite of geographical distance, opened new social circles and allowed people from all cultures to share ideas. But just as with all good things, use of social media becomes unhealthy when it:

  • Prevents us from living in the present moment,
  • Makes it difficult to identify and enjoy what is good in our lives,
  • Interferes with our ability to carry out our responsibilities, and
  • Displaces live relationships and activities in our daily lives.

Recent studies have revealed that a new “disorder” labeled “Facebook Syndrome” has emerged. While the name refers to Facebook, anyone who uses social media, blogging and other forms of online sharing can be vulnerable to this phenomenon. Some patterns include:

  • Inaccurate perceptions of the levels of happiness of “friends” and “buddies”.
  • Obsession with the daily activities of others.
  • Comparing the quality of your life with the lives of” friends”.
  • Frequently changing your profile picture to gain attention.
  • Experiencing anxiety when you cannot check your newsfeed at regular intervals.
  • Constantly looking for funny quotes, posts, and articles from the internet to project an illusion that you are satisfied with your life, are happy, are well informed, are “connected”, etc.

Do you experience any of these patterns of thinking and behavior? To combat the negative effects of social media, remind yourself:

  • No one is as happy as their pages make them appear.
  • People tend to post news and pictures that reflect positively on them, rather than unflattering stories and photos.
  • Not everyone has a more interesting and happier life than you. This assumption can trigger feelings of shame about your own life not being as healthy, happy, busy, outgoing, successful, as others.
  • Everyone does experience challenges in their lives that they do not reveal on social media. Their “virtual persona” is not the sum total of their existence.
  • You are viewing incomplete portrayals of others’ lives.
  • Focus on what you can be grateful for in your life instead of your “have-nots”.
  • Don’t compare the number of friends between you and others. Better yet, stop checking on the number of ”friends” others have.
  • Virtual friends don’t provide the personal connection that live friendships offer. A message of “thinking about you” on social media doesn’t do what a cup of coffee shared in-person, a pat on the shoulder, or a warm smile can do.

For some people, social media has become an unhealthy alternative to real relationships. The use of social media is an addiction. Some signs of addiction are:

  • You are late for meetings or appointments because you are on social media.
  • You think about it when you are working.
  • Friends and family comment on your excessive use.
  • You compulsively check Facebook and other social media accounts from your smartphone, even when you are out with “live” friends, shopping, riding in the car (or worse, driving).
  • You risk your safety by replying to texts and tweets while driving, not wanting the initiator to wait for your reply until you are safely parked.
  • You become stressed, angry, hurt, when a Facebook user does not “friend” you upon your request, or unfriends you.

Simple strategies to recover from Facebook syndrome

The use of social media (and internet in general) has become an ad- diction for some, robbing them of true joy and satisfaction with life; others may experience it as a temptation that impacts their relation- ships and self-esteem. Here are some steps to regain control of your time and life.

1.Admit that you have a problem. Tell someone you trust.

2.Write down exactly how much time you spend on all social media.

3.Give yourself a set time of day to visit social media sites.

4.Turn off email notifications of updates from other users.

5.Get off the computer. There is so much more to life than checking updates.

6.Write down what you used to do before social media. Take steps to re-engage in those activities.

7.Connect with real friends and real family. Time spent in thoughtful live communication should exceed the time spent on social media.

If you find yourself negatively impacted by your use of social media and would like professional assistance, please contact Personal Assistance Services, your EAP.


...the sheer proportion of time spent on social media compared to live relationships erodes our ability to connect with others at anything other than a superficial level.

Shopping will never buy you…

1.Happiness. The thrill of new things is fleeting. Happiness is a choice.

2.Fulfillment. No one gets to the end of their life wishing they had bought more stuff.

3.Significance. Our measure of worth comes from who we are, not how much we own.

4.Influence. Quality of character is much more impressive than quantity of stuff.

5.Contentment. More stuff does not equal contentment. We’re content when we live out our values.

6.Confidence. This comes from knowing our capabilities, not the amount of our net worth.

7.Security. Don’t confuse security and comfort.

8.Gratitude. Gratefulness is a discipline. If we’re not grateful now, why would we be grateful if we had more stuff?

9.Freedom. Everything we buy adds extra worry to our lives. We have more to protect, more to clean, and more to pay off, leading to more work.

*Adapted from Joshua Becker, 9 Things That Shopping Can Never Deliver, www.becomingmini

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PASWord Express © 2014 is published by Personal Assistance Services, 9735 Landmark Parkway, Suite 17, St. Louis, MO, 63127 -9968 (800) 356-0845. Material may not be reproduced without written permission.