The Best Part of #TheWorstPartofDepressionIs

photo by Abby Kroke.

photo by Abby Kroke.

Merriam Webster describes depression as a “serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way,” but as Twitter users showed us this past week – it’s so much more.

#TheWorstPartofDepressionIs started trending on the social media last Friday. It created a much needed release, conversation, awareness and empathy for many sufferers need. Depression affects more than 40 million adults in the United States and about 350 million people worldwide.  That’s a whole lot of people given that there are approximately 7.1 billion people in the world. Why do so many people suffer from depression? Is there anyone to blame?

While social media can be a positive outlet for depression, it can also be a huge trigger. Let’s face it; human beings can be quite nasty.  Social media only amplifies the nastiness with consistent outrage and attacks leveled at everyone else for life’s problems. It’s essentially a mirror to the human experience.

Earlier this year, University of Missouri-Columbia researchers released a study linking Facebook to increased depression. They found that if Facebook users engage in “surveillance use” (comparing your life to others) experience symptoms of depression. However, envy isn’t the only reason for social media sadness. University of Michigan researchers conducted a study in 2013 to know how its subjects felt overall. Over a span of two weeks, Ethan Kross and his team texted eighty-two participants five times a day. Each text message contained a link to an online survey with five questions on how they felt. Kross found that the more people used Facebook in the time between the two texts, the less happy they were.

But can Facebook make us happier?  Is the #TheWorstPartofDepressionIs an example of how it makes us happier by feeling more connected? Researchers from the University of California San Diego say it can.  Last year, James Fowler, author of Connected: How your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do, and his team, analyzed data from 100 million Facebook users who posted around 1 billion updates between 2009 and 2012.

They didn’t just creep on Facebook users in the typical creepy way. Instead, they put messages through a standard word classification system that coded the words from negative to positive. Former studies have linked rain to gloomy, bad feelings. With that in mind, Fowler also controlled for weather by accounting for rainfall, sun light etc. to the users emotions. In the end, they concluded that each additional positive post reduced the negative ones by friends by nearly twice as much, while each additional negative post lowered positive posts by 1.3 times. Happiness wins and it can spread through Facebook!? Who knew!?

I took part in the #TheWorstPartofDepressionIs trend and I’ve never had so many people like my tweet and retweet it. I’ve tweeted about “The Bachelor” and other mainstream TV shows, vegan foods, various cities, “hip” fashion trends, the Kardashains and not one got the same response. Not even close. Is that want people want? Do we want to be able to discuss the real issues that bother us, to feel connected, less alone, and to know you’re not the only one going through a battle with depression? Are we tired of the constant marketing campaigns and noise on social media and do we just want human interaction? Do we secretly want to go back to the former days of Facebook where about simple human contact? Or is that just wishful thinking that it was about friends and friendship in the first place?  Maybe, maybe not, and it will probably take a dozen more studies. However, I’m really glad I was able to reach others. I hope I made their day a little better as they did for me.

Jacqueline Fernandez is Cuban-American storyteller with a love for humor and reality (not the TV kind). Cats are also cool. Oh, and poodles.

Follow Jaxi on twitter: @jaxifernandez