Social media has changed our world. Chances are that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube have become primary go-to sources for news, and interaction with family and friends.
Currently, 3.2 billion people worldwide, or 42 percent of the population, use one or more social-media platforms. Each spends approximately 2.3 hours daily on one or more platforms.
But is social media friend or foe?
“How do you feel when Facebook or Instagram is down for even a few minutes, or when you don’t get as many Likes or comments about your post or picture as you anticipated,” says Susan Barrett, LCSW, Christian Health Care Counseling Center Therapist. “Most people don’t give it much thought, but for individuals who diagnosed with anxiety or depression, it can trigger or increase their symptoms. The result has been the emergence of social-media anxiety, a mental-health condition.”
Social-media anxiety is a subset of social-anxiety disorder, which is characterized by feelings of distress caused from social interactions of any kind. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in America, and technology has become a contributing factor. The more technology we acquire, the more anxious and stressed we become.
Symptoms of social-media anxiety include interrupting in-person conversations to check your social-media accounts, loss of interest in other activities, neglecting school or work in favor of social media, and experiencing withdrawal when you cannot access social media.
“Social-media anxiety has physical and mental effects. The more you sit in front of a computer or with your phone using social media, the more dormant you are. This can lead to obesity and heart disease. Excessive use of devices can also cause eye strain and neck pain, and if you use devices late at night, lack of sleep becomes an issue,” Ms. Barrett says. “Mental effects include feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, depression, and jealousy.”
Compare-and-despair is one component of social-media anxiety. You may feel that your post of dinner at your favorite local restaurant pales in comparison to your friend’s selfies from Bermuda. Another component is fear of missing out, which has its own trendy acronym – FOMO. If you learn that you weren’t invited to your co-worker’s party or you missed your friends’ shopping excursion because you were working, low self-esteem and jealousy may come into play.
Quantity may supersede quality when it comes to number of Friends and/or followers. For some, feelings of inadequacy, rejection, dismay, and low self-esteem result from having less of both than expected.
To reduce social-media usage and anxiety, Ms. Barrett helps clients determine a healthier way to balance time spent online with real-world connections and activities.
“These individuals are attempting to multitask, but are not successful in prioritizing important undertakings like school work,” Ms. Barrett says. “Their only priority is social media.”
Balance can be achieved. Moderate usage. Don’t rely on social media as the only means of communication. Bear in mind that posts and pictures aren’t necessarily a true representation of a person’s life. Some only share the positive, and others, the negative.
“Social media isn’t all bad,” Ms. Barrett says. “It can help those with social anxiety to more easily initiate social connections, practice social skills in a safer environment, and provide an opportunity to share feelings.”