NEW YORK -- Constantly checking Facebook to see what your friends are doing could lead to some serious depression.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Nanyang Technological University, Bradley University and the University of Missouri Columbia found that heavy Facebook users can experience envy -- which can ultimately lead to extreme sadness.
The researchers surveyed 736 college students and found that, basically, if you quietly stalk your friends on Facebook and then realize that your life doesn't measure up to theirs, you feel bad about yourself.
"If Facebook is used to see how well an acquaintance is doing financially or how happy an old friend is in his relationship -- things that cause envy among users -- use of the site can lead to feelings of depression," said Margaret Duffy, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
This isn't just a college phenomenon. I am nearing middle age and I can relate.
Facebook is a huge part of my life. Like most Facebook users, I have the app on my phone. I check it at work. I check it at home. I check it when I am out. If I am in a subway station with Wi-Fi, I check it there too.
I am up to date on all my friends, their kids and whatever they are reading at that moment. Unfortunately, it's an addiction that I can't quit.
Facebook has allowed me a little window into my friends' lives back home. They have babies -- well some of them have teenagers. They have lovely homes. And the dinners -- oh the dinners they serve! There are food presentations that look like something out of a Martha Stewart magazine. I watch all the videos of their kids saying the darndest things. I click on their pictures of vacations in exotic places.
I have come to the conclusion that Facebook is a lifestyle magazine featuring my friends, who are doing it better than me.
I peruse Facebook from computer on my coffee table, because I am not grown up enough to buy a desk for myself. My coffee table is my all-purpose table. I eat there too -- usually hunks of cheese with a knife and no crackers. That's right no crackers, because I am too lazy to run out to the bodega.
My only consolation is sometimes my friends confuse "there," "their" and "they're" in their posts about their lovely vacations and darling children. Then suddenly, I feel a little bit better about myself.