What's social media depression -- and might I have it?

Do your online friends' postings make your life seem boring in comparison? Who's to say they're even telling the truth. See more mental disorders pictures.

In a world where social media Web sites spread news of engagements and breakups, job gains and losses, or even news of life and death, it's easy to become overwhelmed. Web sites such as Facebook help you keep up with friends and family, but you're realizing how easy it is to get sucked into the whirlwind of updates and data. We now live during a time when you can follow your pal's every move on his latest beach trip -- even if the only surfing you're doing is on the Web.

Let's face it: Using social media can stir up many emotions, including sadness.

Whether we're subconsciously comparing ourselves to friends or feeling the sting of rejection, our emotions transcend the keyboard. This is why some people have coined the term "social media depression" to informally describe the depressive thoughts associated with using social media.

Despite the term's use, no formal definition or diagnosis of social media depression exists at this time. Also, the concept does not appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the official reference for psychiatrists and mental health experts.

Even though social media depression lacks legitimacy, it's understandable why Web sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or LinkedIn, to list a few, may be under fire. Some research recognizes an association between depression and Internet use, but figuring out causation is tricky. Experts are unsure whether using social media Web sites causes depression or if people with depressive tendencies are more drawn to the digital realm.

What health professionals do know is that children and teens are more sensitive to media influences [source: Wilson et al.]. And even though depression affects both sexes, women are more commonly diagnosed with the condition than men [source: MedlinePlus]. One could speculate that these trends of depression carry over to social media sites as well.

On the other hand, social media certainly have benefits, too. Facebook in particular has been shown to increase social capital among users, especially those with low self-esteem and life satisfaction [source: Ellison et al.]. Older people are also thought to reap the benefits of social media use [source: Nauert].

Now that we know what social media depression might be, the question remains: Do you buy into it? Read on to learn what else is known about mental health and Internet use.