There has been an increasing tendency to portray oneself as a depressed person on social media nowadays.
While varying degrees of sadness can bring people on social media to share it with others, there is a significant number of people who simply prefer to draw a sad picture of themselves.
We can call this a ‘depression pandemic’ on social media. What could be the reasons and implications of this unique virtual pandemic?
Difference between being sad and depressed
Sadness is a natural human emotion that everyone goes through when they are worried or upset. Sadness normally fades away over time.
On the other hand, depression is the severe version of sadness that does not pass away; rather it has a dominating impact on many aspects of an individual’s life.
There are people who do not realise that they are having depression. And then there are many, on the contrary, who believe or at least pretend to be depressed, which they are not.
While doctors are continuously discussing depression, the pandemic of ‘pseudo depression’ needs to be addressed too.
Seeking attention by ‘sadfishing’
Some people intentionally show they are depressed to gain attention and sympathy from others, to try to make connections. Sometimes, they simply play the victim card to pursue their own objectives
"Once a boy whom I met online pretended to be really upset due to his mother's death. As part of humanity, I showed my condolences to him and we started talking regularly.”
“Just when we started having a strong bond then I got to know all he had been saying were complete lies. His mother was alive and just for the sake of making a connection, he lied to me,” Tasmim Farhana Anika, a 3rd-year pharmacy student of Brac University, shared this shocking experience when asked about sadfishing.
Is comparison a reason?
If you observe closely, you will find another strong cause behind too many people’s depression across social media platforms - comparing oneself with others.
“As I am a medical student, my exams are always on and I have to study day-night. When I see people on social media going on vacation, roaming around I feel sad,” shared Mashiat Monjur, a 3rd-year student of Khulna Medical College.
Though she does not post anything about it, she knows people who do this, as she continued, “I can relate to the people who share sad posts. The people on social media make us feel that we (medical students) are missing out on our life.”
While it is normal to be sad while comparing with others, depression remains miles apart. However, when people do this on a daily basis, they start believing that they are depressed.
Lack of communication skills
People with low communication skills fail to continue regular communication. They find it hard to make friends and feel lonely.
This is the case with Tanvir Hasan, a 2nd-year student of Applied Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Dhaka University (DU). He opened up about his sadness as he failed to be a part of the online affinity groups during the pandemic.
“After university reopening, the academic pressure has been monstrous and I have no friends. I feel lonely and post things which are related to my situation,” he added.
Farzana Tabassum, a Pharmacy student of Brac University, could relate to Tanvir and mentioned some of her observations.
“Confusion, miscommunication, failure to understand sarcasm and funny jokes, ending the conversation right after talking about work, inferior complexity etc. can affect healthy communication.”
Not having any productive work
While we can keep looking for reasons behind the depression pandemic on social media as long as we want, one common scenario can easily be overlooked. Do we ever ask whether we have enough work to be engaged in rather than sad posting on social media?
“A person will certainly feel useless if he does nothing. Our brains are designed in a way that if it takes a day off, it does not enjoy it because it is used to remaining busy,” Faria Rahman Rattry, a Brac University student, was saying while talking to the writer.
“On my day off, I usually keep myself busy by doing my skincare, nail arts, mehendi arts, drawing and online shopping.”
And there are thousands who do not have anything to do at all, spending everyday as virtually ‘off day.’ They are bound to be bored, in time, sad, implied Rattry.
Genuinely depressed people
The borderline between what is authentic and what is performance has been increasingly blurred by social media. There are certainly many people on social media who are genuinely depressed.
What is a real concern is that you can never be sure who is looking for support and who is seeking attention on social media unless you have in-person interaction with them.
People who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms were found to have depression ranging from 13 per cent to 66 per cent, found in recent studies.
Sometimes depressed people seek help in front of our eyes and we fail to support them because of the flood of ‘pseudo-depressed’ ones.
“I think this number of people pretending to be depressed on social media is increasing. We subconsciously can avoid a real depressed person and can worry for a fake one easily,” said Seamul Islam, an engineering student of Jessor University of Science and Technology.
What he meant to say is that the floods of depression posts on social media submerge the actually depressed ones who need care. And finding no support, many take their lives which might be avoided if ‘everyone’ on social media were not depressed and sad.
Realisation is what we need
It is pointless to share emotions on social media because social media is not capable of solving one’s problems. Rather, one should focus on strengthening real-life bondings with others, where sharing a problem might bring a solution.
Everyone goes through difficult phases at some point in their lives. While problems are solved if tried sincerely, if in case your sadness goes out of control, consult a professional, not social media.