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New concerns over Facebook depression

facebooklogo010610_optBY PAM LOBLEY

As if depression isn’t bad enough, now there’s Facebook depression.

Doctors are warning that teenagers who are already suffering from low self-esteem can be particularly susceptible to depression brought on by hours on Facebook. Constantly viewing happy looking teens can make one feel inadequate.

Well, I was a teen once, and I remember that feeling inadequate was a permanent part of the landscape.

I feel bad for kids today. It was bad enough when I was in ninth grade and had to sit next to Mindy Berry in French class. She had the prettiest, most expensive clothes, and was allowed to wear a full face of makeup to school every day. I was allowed lip gloss only, and my Earth Shoes were not the real thing, they were a knock off. I also had a sweating problem, so I rarely took off my sweater or jacket.

But at least when I went home, I was safe. No one could post pictures of me and laugh at them, and I wasn’t able to torture myself by going online to constantly view pictures of beautiful girls wearing makeup, going to pool parties and showing off their miraculously dry underarms.

Instead, I could call my friend Heather, and we could talk for hours on the phone, and whatever we said was just between the two of us, not posted for public consumption.

The only thing surprising to me about Facebook depression is that it is limited to teens. Adults spend just as much time on Facebook, and although I am not on Facebook, I hear that it’s full of people’s adorable, academically talented children, far-flung vacations, fancy parties with riotously happy guests, and other perfect moments from their lives.

That would depress me.

Facebook pages feature tallies and tags – so it can turn into a big popularity contest: who has the most friends, whose pictures have the most tags. As if high school itself wasn’t a big enough popularity contest. Also, teens have a habit of posting nasty or judgmental messages on the walls of kids they don’t like.

Pediatricians are cautioning parents that they need to talk to their kids about Facebook depression, sexting, cyberbullying and other online risks. I hope parents tell their kids “be nice”. If every parent said to their child “You post one unkind message, and I take your Facebook for 3 months”, then I bet that would cut down on the bullying.

But this is not necessarily about bullying as much as it is measuring up. Endlessly looking at pictures that say “I have this and you don’t” is bound to make a person feel bad. But most of what is truly valuable in life can’t be captured in a photograph. If kids had more experiences that reinforced that, perhaps the Facebook pages would have less of an impression.

I wonder if Mindy Berry is on Facebook. I better not check.

Pam Lobley writes the “Now That’s Funny” column. Sign up for her mailing list at


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Comments (1)
1 Saturday, 02 April 2011 13:36
Bergen Cty. reader
Can you please change the name of your column? Topics like depression ARE NOT FUNNY, although you're probably trying to present a serious issue in a humorous way. Why? I don't know. But it's not working.

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