Abby Day is a bright, attractive twenty-something with a good job, a nice apartment, and plenty of friends. She’s not the depressive type. But when I mentioned the subject of “Facebook depression” in her presence, she nodded knowingly.

“My friends and I talk about it,” she said. “We see some of our friends from high school and college who’ve moved away or are studying overseas, and there are all these pictures of them grinning, and they’re always writing notes about how great they’re doing. And it makes us feel like such losers.”

Welcome to the world of Facebook. Where somebody is always doing something more interesting, has more friends, parties heartier, and has ‘way more fun than you.

In addition to being a great way to stay in touch with friends and relatives, promote your event, and share your vacation photos, Facebook is a 24/7 popularity contest. Your friends are like scalps: the more you have, the cooler and more powerful you are.

Now the American Academy of Pediatrics has released new social media guidelines for parents that say that, for kids who are already dealing with poor self-esteem, Facebook may make the pressures of coping with teen social life even tougher.

Actually, the study says a lot of things. Among them: “Engagement in social media and online communities can enhance communication, facilitate social interaction and help develop technical skills. They can help tweens and teens discover opportunities to engage in the community by volunteering, and can help youth shape their sense of identity. These tools also can be useful adjuncts to—and in some cases are replacing—traditional learning methods in the classroom.”

But Dr. Gwenn Shurgin O’Keeffe, a Boston-area pediatrician and co-author of the report, compares letting kids navigate the world of social media alone with letting them drive a car without driver’s ed training. She encourages parents to get involved, help kids balance social media use with other things in their lives, and put everything they see on Facebook in perspective.

She’s right–and there’s no need to stop with kids. We’ve all been thrown into the world of social media without guidelines, and most of us know plenty of adults who seem to be connected to Facebook and Twitter every waking moment of their lives. They check Facebook when they get up, leave it on all day at work, and spend hours online every evening. They tweet every stray thought entering their heads. God knows they can’t go anywhere without checking in with Yelp or FourSquare so you and everybody else in the world knows where they are at all times.

In his 2010 novel Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart creates a near-future world where everyone is always plugged in and people are constantly viewing themselves in relation to everyone else in the room. You can see how your net worth compares with everyone else’s at the party; your sexual attractiveness is also rated against everyone else you see. At a glance, you always know where you stand, and everyone else knows where you stand, too. You are only the 32nd-most-attractive person in the room. The numbers don’t lie.

It’s dystopic science fiction for sure, but it’s awfully close to what we experience right now with social media. We have the ability to be connected with each other all the time. Which, ironically, means that it’s easy to feel isolated and disconnected from all the great things going on out there in the happening world. When your friends are always doing fabulous things, your life can seem drab and even sad in comparison.

Facebook is fun and Facebook is useful. But it’s really not real life. There’s no context for all those photos of your friends having fun. You don’t get to see how they felt after the party. You don’t see the nine miserable hours they spent in an airplane to reach their fabulous destination, or the battles they have every evening at the dinner table with their adorable children.

And Facebook isn’t very good at communicating subtle emotions. “Joy” may be easy to see on your friends’ faces, but what about “contentment” or “peace” or “uncertainty”?

What about depth? A quick exchange of zippy barbs can be exhilarating. But it’s a party trick. Facebook and Twitter are good connectors, but they’re not the ideal environments for deep, meaningful exchanges of information and perspective.

The trick, as with any medium, is to use social media wisely and balance their presence in your life with honest-to-goodness, real-life interactions that don’t have to be reported on Facebook. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself with everyone, or of judging the quality of other people’s lives based on their status updates. Chances are, their lives aren’t quite so fabulous. And yours isn’t quite so boring.