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Comparing yourself to friends online isn't great for your mental health

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Researchers from Lancaster University have investigated the link between depression and social networking sites such as Facebook, and proved what we already knew deep down.

With access to people's lives just a click away, it's easy to start comparing our own mundane everyday-ness to people's 'highlight reel' that they post on Facebook. Comparing ourselves to others' online profiles is much more likely to make us depressed than comparing ourselves to people in the real world.

Around 35,000 people participated in the study carried out by Lancaster University, which spanned 14 countries. The lead researcher, David Baker, told Broadly: "Most of the studies used cross-sectional survey designs, so the researchers would use standardised measures of depression and cross-check them against how often people were using sites and what they were doing." 

"We found that comparing yourself with people on social media was more likely to make you feel depressed than comparing yourself offline. Rumination, meaning you spend a lot of time overthinking your experiences online, was another. So if you log on and see something and you're still thinking about it afterwards, that can make you become depressed."

Baker however has stated that it is not yet completely proven whether it is social media making people unhappy, or if unhappy people gravitate toward social media themselves. Posting negative statuses on Facebook leads to further unhappiness, but has Facebook caused this initial unhappiness, or are we venting unhappiness caused by our actual lives out onto social networks?

There's been an argument for some time about the culture that social blogging site Tumblr may promote. To some, it provides a close knit community that supports those struggling with mental health issues; however the site is saturated with images of self-harm, eating disorder and general self-destructive behaviour, which could further the issues of those exposed to them.

But, despite the not so shocking revelation that Facebook really is making us all a bit sadder, Baker states that he wants to test the positive sides of social media and support groups in the future, including whether they can aid people suffering from bipolar.

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