Winning the battle against Facebook envy and depression does not happen by getting rid of Facebook. It happens when envious hearts are destroyed by the glory of God.
I didn’t need an official study to realize Facebook can be enormously depressing. Whenever I spend too much time on there (say, more that 20 minutes at a time), I automatically find myself with the blues. I begin to wonder, is all this scrolling through posts a royal waste time or what!? Why must I find out who thinks the dress is blue/black and who thinks its white/gold? Why do I feel so compelled to watch every short video clip of kids making snow angels, or someone crashing painfully on a treadmill.
I’ve also noticed among friends and family that attitudes and moods rise and fall (typically) with the amount of Facebook use. The more people fiddle with it and worry with it, the more stressed they seem to be. About once a week, I read a post that says, “Ok, that’s it, I’m taking a Facebook break, if you need me, send me a text.” That is the statement of a person who is wise enough to see the connection between high levels of stress / sadness and high levels of Facebook in the face. But what’s the real problem?
The Official Study
Today, the University of Missouri broke the story of their official findings regarding Facebook use: “If Facebook Causes Envy, Depression Could Follow.” I noticed CNN picked the up story, and probably others. Like so many of these official studies, what they find is the obvious thing you would expect them to find. One must wonder why money should be spent on a study where the end result is already known by anyone with some sense. Still, the study does make it official. Facebook depresses people!
The brain behind the study, Margaret Duffy, reports:
Facebook can be a fun and healthy activity if users take advantage of the site to stay connected with family and old friends and to share interesting and important aspects of their lives. However, if Facebook is used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship—things that cause envy among users—use of the site can lead to feelings of depression.
You don’t say!? You mean if I scroll through Facebook stalking the lives of all my friends who seem to have more money, more toys, and more fun than me, I should be aware this could create envy? If it wasn’t obvious already, you should know the answer is yes. Plus, when this envy sits in your heart awhile, it will inevitable lead to feelings of depression, and sometimes great depression.
Here’s how it works. Envy says, “I want what she’s got,” but reality says, “You don’t have enough money,” and a sinful heart says, “Well, then I’m going poke my bottom lip out like a two year old and sulk about it.”
Facebook Made Me Do It
But hang on a minute! Let’s be careful here. The problem goes much deeper than, “Facebook makes me envious and depressed.” That is essentially like saying, “The devil made me do it.”
In fact, the solution to Facebook Envy-Depression Syndrome (or, FEDS) is not to give up Facebook, though for many people that is exactly what they need to do as an emergency correction. But for most people, the answer to FEDS is found in getting more of Jesus and his glory.
See, the study makes it seem like Facebook is the problem that causes envy which leads to depression. That is patently false and puts the blame on Zuckerberg’s crew, when the blame really belongs in the heart of the envious sinner.
It is critical to understand, the answer to envy is not in battling the object of envy, but in battling envy itself. If I am envious for my neighbor’s house, the solution is not found in burning their house down! The solution is found in killing the envy that is living in my heart. And the only way to kill that envy is to have a Glory Focus.
I must take my eyes off my neighbor’s stuff (and my FB friends’ stuff) and put my eyes on Jesus. I must find my hope, life, safety, security, and identity in him, and in him alone. When I do, I find I don’t need my neighbor’s house or stuff. We must SEE Jesus constantly:
Hebrews 2:9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
I like Facebook, and I use it all the time. I intend to promote this post on Facebook (you probably got here from there, in fact – most people do!). Any success I have had selling my books has come through Facebook advertising and promotion. I think it is a wonderful, ingenious tool when it is used for good purposes.
In many ways, using Facebook must be done with the same care one would use with a gun. Guns are wonderful tools for hunting, protection, and other responsible tasks. If someone misuses a gun and harms themselves or others, it is not the fault of the gun, which has no mind, will, emotions, or personality. The problem lies in the heart of the one who pulls the trigger.
If you find yourself envious and depressed because of Facebook, don’t blame Facebook, or your friends’ posts. Blame yourself. Envy is a kind of idolatry, and idolatry is a substitution of anything for God. Your problem is not Facebook. Your problem is you need more God.