Health: Facebook Traumatic Stress Disorder

The “Faces” of FTSD


There I was, fidgeting anxiously in my shrink’s waiting room, thumbing through magazines, nervous for the session to start, but also afraid of where the conversation might go.

I had been struggling for months with anxiety and paralyzing panic attacks, unaware of the cause of my deepening distress or even that there was one.

As I think back, I now realize there was a Facebook connection though my denial was also part of the problem.

I told myself it was normal, that everyone was a bit nervous as they checked to see where they stood in this thing called “life.”

Were there new notifications?

Friends to confirm?

Had I been shared?

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I noticed a heightened sense of awareness and vigilance when I scrolled down the page becoming ever more anxious as I saw posts of wieners grilling, faces smiling, bare feet pointing poolside and patio decks recently sealed.

By far the hardest have been the targeted and cruel ads, a fact my shrink had warned me of, pointing out that one of the most insidious aspects of FTSD are in fact, ad-induced panic attacks.

They are also a frequent cause of paranoia, she said.

The Mack Weldon boxer brief ads, were my Speedo days really over?

And then there was the “Abs Over 40” posts.

Forty was nice but also a distant memory.

What about “Abs Over 60”?

I searched in vain as I fretted over my declining testosterone levels, feeling myself shrink even as I scrolled.

The Two Faces of FTSD

The current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) lists two broad categories of FTSD.  I was relieved to hear that I suffer from a mild to moderate form of the less serious of the two, FTSD-1, which tends to strike men over fifty who were born during the winter and are late adopters of technology.

Researchers have yet to determine the winter link though it is thought to be associated with low sun light levels during teething.

The far more serious form, FTSD-2 strikes both men and women under forty and is strongly correlated to the number of “selfies” and memes they have posted after age 20.

The “Melfie” Effect and FTSD-2

Pre-20 selfies or memes, referred to in the study literature as “melfies”are risk free but later melfies spell trouble.

The melfie effect is poorly understood but scientists believe that there is a clear difference between a melfie share and a melfie post.

Sharing is currently thought to be benign while posting is associated with FTSD anxiety.

One study has suggested that there may be a link between IQ and the melfie effect illustrated by an equation where lifetime posted selfies are divided by memes and the result is multiplied by .0003492 to obtain the IQ.  (selfie/meme x .0003492 = IQ)

Users living below the Mason-Dixon line deduct six points from the final result.


In addition, Researchers at the University of Adelaide have determined that the melfie effect can be so serious that it can result in “melfie morbidity” an advanced state of FTSD-2 where the sufferer is unable to post to Facebook at all.

Like, You Know?

One additional note of deep concern over FTSD-2.

Both the frequency and severity of FTSD-2 is directly linked to the number of times Facebook users vocalize the words “like” and “you know”  when neither is even remotely appropriate and are employed as mindless utterances to mask an otherwise completely vapid conversation.

Harvard researchers hung out in a Cambridge Square Whole Foods Market and ease-dropped on undergrads wolfing down their $20 organic salads as they conversed and scrolled.

One 21-year-old woman uttered an astonishing 356 “likes” and “you knows” during a 15-minute chat.

When questioned later she admitted that she has noticed not only a general sense of unease when Facebook scrolling but has gone hours without liking or sharing.

She also confided that her selfie total was in the low four digits.

She is now enrolled in a special Harvard program to help her make the transition from “like” to “hmmm” or “uh” which not has been found to have an FTSD-2 effect.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed for her, shall we?

As For Me

I consider myself to be very lucky.

I am fortunate, blessed, even.

After four months of intensive therapy (and several thousand dollars well spent) I am aware of the cause of my disorder and I fully understand how it has negatively effected my Facebook life.

(Is there any other?)

It’s a complicated and multi-faceted disorder and with some trepidation I awaited my shrink’s advice for how to turn my life around.

Glancing at the clock and then me, she said, “I suggest you try getting a real life.  By the way, your time is up.”

Help Combat FTSD, Don’t Let Loved Ones, Like, Suffer









1 Comment

  • Brien McNamara says:

    Who knew? Thanks for bringing this to light. (I don’t think I receive all the important notifications on FB I should see.)

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