Adolescence is, perhaps, one of the most difficult phases in a person’s life, and one that is equally testing for their parents. Kids go through many physical and mental changes which may sometimes be difficult to cope with. In this extremely problematic period, ‘Facebook Depression’ is another syndrome which has emerged as the latest adolescent issue. It refers to when adolescents spend a lot of time on Facebook (or for that matter any other social media website) and exhibit symptoms of depression due to it. Some of the classic symptoms of depression are feeling sad, hopeless and irritable, losing interest, sleep and appetite, and in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts. Parents need to keep an eye out for these symptoms and provide physical and mental support to their kids during this phase.
The minimum age requirement to create a Facebook account is 13 years, which is an impressionable age and not a time when the young users can analyze a situation objectively. Since people usually tend to share things on social media in a hyped up manner, and not in a normal way, and adolescents take these at face value, excessive Facebook time and usage gives them distorted ideas of real life and affects them negatively:
1. Living For Facebook
While the previous generation aspired to ‘live in the moment’ or ‘live for today’, kids of the new generation appear to be living their life through Facebook, and it seems, for Facebook. For instance, rather than thinking about having a good time after exams are over, they are more interested in showing off where they ‘check-in’ and what designer label they are flaunting in their ‘selfies’. This obsession is gratified by instantly posting and sharing these pictures and checking every few minutes for the number of ‘likes’. Teenagers these days can be overheard keeping jealous track of these numbers and recounting them boastfully in front of their friends. Their happiness seems to be directly proportional to their popularity on social media.
2. Peer Pressure At Its Worst
Till a few years ago, parents were trying to keep the peer pressure on their kids to a minimum by regulating their exposure to the harmful effects of the outside world. With Facebook, this control factor has gone for a toss. They are now friends with not just their classmates but with school seniors and juniors, tuition teachers, distant cousins, even their parents’ friends and perfect strangers, and can easily have a glimpse of their lives as presented on social media. In other words, the often exaggerated and glamorized versions of others’ lives, which make their own seem dull by comparison. This makes them question why they don’t have certain things or why they don’t have certain privileges (ex: staying out late, outstation trips with friends) like the others do.
3. Being Social Outcasts
It is no longer sufficient to be doing well at school in academics or extra-curricular activities. Even the kids having the best of everything may be made to feel like social outcasts if they do not have at least x a number of friends or followers. On the other hand, they also do not want to be trolled! It is the proverbial tightrope that they are walking, and for which their fragile minds are ill-equipped!
4. Body Image Consciousness
Other forms of comparison that kids are facing these days are issues of body image. They want to look perfect in those images that they post. While girls want to appear size zero, boys want to beef it up. At this age, parents want their kids to eat, play and be happy without having to be conscious of how they look, and definitely not alter their diet to meet these meaningless and superficial requirements. Further, this destructive trend can lead to serious health issues in future, apart from undermining the youngsters’ self-esteem.
The pressure of always being connected and getting irritated at the slightest sign of network being unavailable or not being able to reply to a message are some of the other signs of being obsessed with the virtual world, which may eventually lead to depression. The best way to tell, as always, is by keeping a close eye on the children and changes in their behavior.