Facebook Depression and the “Cool” Kids in High School

May 29th, 2011

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns of a a new ailment plaguing teenagers: Facebook Depression:

It results from being bombarded with friend tallies, status updates, and photos of people happy, having the time of their lives, when you are not.

Here is the abstract of the report:

Using social media Web sites is among the most common activity of today’s children and adolescents. Any Web site that allows social interaction is considered a social media site, including social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter; gaming sites and virtual worlds such as Club Penguin, Second Life, and the Sims; video sites such as YouTube; and blogs. Such sites offer today’s youth a portal for entertainment and communication and have grown exponentially in recent years. For this reason, it is important that parents become aware of the nature of social media sites, given that not all of them are healthy environments for children and adolescents. Pediatricians are in a unique position to help families understand these sites and to encourage healthy use and urge parents to monitor for potential problems with cyberbullying, “Facebook depression,” sexting, and exposure to inappropriate content.

Complains one student, who feels left out of all the fun:

“If I’m just like sad or something and just kind of chillin’ at home and I see pictures of people having a party I’m like oh that’s awesome… like I’m not there… that’s kind of depressing,” explained high school student Elizabeth Kisch.  But Kisch also says she doesn’t take Facebook too seriously.

High school is a depressive place for many reasons. I can assure Elizabeth, though, that the “cool” people at the “awesome” parties are usually not too happy. Usually the people at the top of the social pyramid are those with the deepest depressions; they’re just better about hiding it because they’re so, well, “cool.”

Just today the LA Times has a story about what made geeks outsiders in high schools makes them stars in the world.

In the adult world, being out is in. “Geek chic” and “nerd merch” are on the rise. Nerdcore hip-hop artists have penetrated mainstream consciousness. And the nerd prom known as Comic Con draws high-profile celebrities and throngs of smitten fans. They’re all part of what Jerry Holkins, creator of the Penny Arcade webcomic and video game conference, calls “the social pariah outcast aesthetic.”

Adults tend to be mature enough to recognize that there would be no progress — cures for diseases, ways to harness new energy sources — without people who are different. Successful scientists think distinctively.

So what happens to high school’s popular students? Research shows that they are more likely than outsiders to conform, which can also mean they’re less likely to innovate. They are more likely to be both targets and instigators of aggression — whether physical or relational, which includes rumors, gossip and backstabbing. They are more likely to drink and engage in other risky behaviors. Students who are popular and involved in aggression are less likely to do well in school. Psychologists point out that high-status cliques teach the exclusionary behavior that may be the foundation for eventual racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and other forms of bigotry.

Rest assured, I was never, ever cool in high school, and most certainly was, and still am, a geek; and damn proud of it.