I was intrigued recently by reading an AP news article entitled, Facebook Depression seen as new risk for teens. Having just read through Tim Challies, The Next Story, I was sensitive to how this social media network might be adversely affecting our young people. This is what I gleaned from the article:
- Teens that are “already down” seem to get more so after reading their “friends” statuses that seemingly are indicative of good & happy times
- Teens compared who they were as a person by comparing their total “friend” counts to others
- Teens came away with the understanding that they may not measure up as they read the “skewed” views of their Facebook “friends”
- Teens are vulnerable to depression, cyberbullying, sexting and other online risks through social networking sites
How should parents respond to such news that their teen might be feeling depressed by what they are experiencing on Facebook?
One of the things that must be understood, by both parents and teens, is that any form of depression must be dealt with or it will eventually overwhelm you. Many of the feelings of depression are deceptive and very difficult to battle. It is hard to imagine dealing with anything that is unpleasant, especially if you feel like doing nothing.
As Christians we are called to a new way of living. It is to live, not based on our feelings (nor ignoring our feelings, as we will discuss shortly), but based on what we believe is true and acting on that belief. The only thing we know for sure that is true is God’s Word. God has called us to a certain way to live and we need to believe that this is the best way to live and act on that belief. It could simply be called “faith”. The writer of Hebrews says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…(or we could even say of things not “felt”) (ESV) Often we don’t “feel” like living and doing what God has called us to, but we know we should live and act that way because Scripture is clear. Let’s look at some possible examples that teens suffering Facebook Depression might acknowledge:
- Feeling:“I feel as if no-one wants to be my friend. I feel abandoned and alone on Facebook, even with all my ‘friends’.”
- Truth:Psalm 27:10 says that even if your mom & dad forsake you, the Lord will still take you in. God desires a relationship with you. Hebrews 13:5 confirms that Jesus will never forsake us.
- Feeling: “I feel as if I am unimportant and unnecessary. My friends have purpose in life, I don’t“.
- Truth: You do have a purpose. You were created for the very purpose of glorifying the Creator God! (Isaiah 43:7) In everything you do, even Facebooking, you should be seeking to bring God glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31) The goal of your life is to please Him, (2 Corinthians 5:9), and if He has called you to do it, He will equip you to do it. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
What about the feelings? What are your feelings saying about you? What can you learn from what you feel?
Understand that your emotions and your feelings are given to you by your Creator. Since we live in a broken state, due to sin, we cannot trust our feelings, but we recognize that our feelings reveal the “real” us. What might your teen’s Facebook Depression be saying about their heart? Below is just a sampling of a list of heart issues your teen may be struggling with:
- Desire to please others. When they are shunned on Facebook with this heart desire they feel as if they don’t measure up or have failed their friends.
- Desire to hear the praise of men. This is closely tied to the above desire. What will your teen’s reaction be if they do not hear “Well done!” from their friends? What might this reveal about what they are living for?
- Desire for self-pity. This is a strong heart’s desire in teens. “If no-one else will care for me, then I’ll just take pity on myself”. Self becomes the most important person in their lives. Is this proper Christian living?
- Desire to avoid conflict. This teen’s heart desire might be one that acquiesces, or gives in easily to cyberbullying, etc. What the teen needs to learn is the biblical way to handle conflict. Parents should be aware of any unsafe circumstances their teens face, and be willing to assist them biblically through it.
- Desire to put others down & elevate self. When others slander, ridicule, or in other ways use unwholesome speech, it is easy to react to the person and not deal with the problem. Our teens need to be reminded of what biblical communication is: gracious and non-reactionary. (Ephesians 4 & Colossians 2)
How will your teen get rid of Facebook Depression?
- Know that the Holy Spirit will help and strengthen them in the suffering they face.
- Romans 5:3-5: And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:3-5 NAS)
- Understand that their faith may be tested. It reveals their trust in their God.
- God will be with them in the testing
- Isaiah 43: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. (Isa 43:1-3 ESV)
- Be proactive in living biblically on Facebook:
- Enter 10 wall posts on friends Facebook pages that express how they have blessed you
- Post 5 statuses of what God has been teaching you through His Word – perhaps even what you are learning as a result of suffering
- Don’t give up. Never give up!
- God hasn’t given up on you and is determined to complete the work he started in you. You can take comfort in that. (Philippians 1:6)
Resources that help:
- Depression: The Way Up When You Are Down by Edward T. Welch
- Conflict: A Redemptive Opportunity by Timothy Lane
- Manipulation: Knowing How to Respond by Lou Priolo