This is my Facebook feed

Every time I open Facebook I see this:

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I have many “friends” but I do not follow any of them. If I want to see what’s going on in their lives I will do it in person.

I’m reading Kate Fagan’s latest book right now, What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen, about Madison Holleran, the University of Pennsylvania track and field athlete who committed suicide in 2014. At first I was turned off by the grim topic, but I’m now astonished by how common the feelings are that Holleran struggled with, even if they don’t lead to suicide.

The reasons of Holleran’s suicide are personal and complex, but Fagan writes an eloquent chapter about the impact social media has on feelings of depression:

“A study of more than seven hundred college students by researchers at the University of Missouri found that Facebook could spark feelings of envy, which can lead to symptoms of depression. when you’re anxious and low, and out of habit (and addiction) you launch social media, it is unlikely that images of others will help you feel connected. Rather, they almost certainly further pry apart the space between you and everyone else, because you are not happy and everyone else seems to be.

Social media has psychological side effects. Paradoxically, hyperconnectivity may create feelings of disconnection–not only between us and others, but within ourselves. In Mind Change, clinical psychologist Larry Rosen points out that a “dangerous gap could grow between this idealized ‘front stage’ you and the real ‘backstage’ you, leading to a feeling of disconnection and isolation.” Social media doesn’t represent the first chance we’ve had to ‘distort’ our identity, but it is the first that allows us to do so in such volume, and with such accessibility.” (p. 145).

Last week I said that Daniel Coyle’s The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Effective Groups was the best book I’ve read this year. I might have to take that back, because Fagan’s What Made Maddy Run is remarkable.

[PS — ESPN published a 10-minute segment about Madison Holleran called ‘Life Instagrammed‘. I also published an interview two months ago about mental health on Fredonia’s campus.]

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