Depression: How Worldwide Networking Isolates Us
The Battle of the Mind
Depression is a topic, especially amongst Christians, that has a stigma that needs to be broken. Depression is not always spiritual. We have categorized depression as a spiritual haze that if you have it, you must not know Jesus as well as the people around you. That is simply not true.
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the nation, affecting over 264 million people worldwide. Luckily, we serve a God that is bigger and greater than any cognitive disorder, psychological event or chemical off balance that we could ever face. We serve a healing God that has full authority over this physical world that we temporarily inhabit.
Social media is not the leading cause of depression. However, just because it isn’t the leading factor doesn’t mean it does not play a significant role. You pull one small domino and the rest all come crashing down. Make a small hole in a dam and the whole wall ruptures. A small piece can have a large impact. That being said, depression can be a factor of multiple things – biological factors mixed with social settings mixed with psychological factors (brain chemicals).
Although you wouldn’t think cute beach selfies and vacation photos could impact the chemistry of your brain, it does. And it also impacts the way you think. Let’s take body comparison for example. That beach photo you just posted of your tight skin and dark tan was seen by ten to twenty women who are insecure about their own body. That post has now got them thinking about their own “imperfections,” how their bodies aren’t good enough and that no one could ever love a body like this. This leads to self-esteem issues which could lead to depression.
Another example is a twelve-year-old boy meets a friend from his Minecraft server on Instagram. This boy never had face-to-face interaction with this friend, activating very few social triggers. He then grows up only talking to the friends he meets online. Well, these friends grow up and decide Minecraft isn’t worth the time compared to girls and sports, so they leave. Now, this boy doesn’t know how to communicate face-to-face with others. According to today.com face to face interaction acts like a vitamin for depression.
Scholars at Kansas State University note that, “The understanding of these kinds of nonverbal social cues is particularly important for social interaction because of the need to modify one’s own behavior in response to the reactions of others. The capability to effectively process emotional cues is associated with many personal, social, and academic outcomes. In addition, children who better understand emotional cues in a social environment may develop superior social skills and form more positive peer relationships.”
Being able to hide behind a screen enables face-to-face communication. As those articles said, there is importance to face-to-face communication. Social media and the opportunity to meet people purely through a screen can lead to isolation – one of the leading causes of depression. Principal of an Elementary School and Ex Principal of a Middle School, James Ackley, has seen those social skills change firsthand. “There is no substitute for human interaction, kids can often isolate themselves with social media.” In a poll taken by 278 adolescents, 76 percent said that social media has negatively impacted their depression.
According to a study done by PLoS One, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science since 2006 says individuals who spent more time on social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat were linked to less moment-to-moment happiness and less life satisfaction. Another study done by AJPM, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, established as a premier source of timely and evidence-based information on prevention science, education, practice, and policy for a global audience, took a frame of people that represented 97% of the U.S. population ages 19-32. They found that the more time spent on social media, or their SMU (social media usage), played a major role in their social isolation. Adults with more SMU felt more socially isolated than their counterparts with less SMU.
The authors of the PLoS One study wrote, “On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling such needs by allowing people to instantly connect. Rather than enhancing well-being, as frequent interactions with supportive ‘offline’ social networks powerfully do, the current findings demonstrate that interacting with Facebook may predict the opposite result for young adults—it may undermine it.”
Let’s move on to brain chemistry. How can photos and views affect your brain chemistry? Well, depression occurs when cortisol levels are too high. Social media increases anxiety which increases cortisol levels in the brain. Those cortisol levels increase the size of the amygdala as well as seep into the hippocampus. These high levels of cortisol then stunt the growth of neurons in your brain. These neurons are also called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters include dopamine and serotonin which are what create happiness and joy in your brain.
Again, depression is a serious topic and something that no person should have to go through. For help and resources, go to https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline. That being said, social media regulation can play a large role in the satisfaction and happiness of an individual. There is also a third resource that is accessible at all times and that is Jesus Christ. God may not miraculously heal you overnight; he can, but depression can be a process. Luckily our God is bigger than it. Our God can fill you and heal you so you can walk in freedom. Don’t let social media keep the flames of your depression going. Take out the kindling one piece and a time starting with social media.