Social Media Addiction and Anxiety
I think that it is all too easy to laugh off anxiety and social media addiction as being part and parcel of an entitled generation who are hooked on the instant gratification of likes and comments. However, often the overuse or misuse of social media can reflect an ocean of unhappiness below the surface, breaking through in tiny drips. Anxiety and social media addiction are often related.
The Lure of Social Media Addiction to Anxiety Sufferers
With an anxiety disorder, it can be incredibly difficult to concentrate. Often, I found myself pacing helplessly, unable to settle long enough to read a book, write or watch a film. At times, I have even found it impossible to work. At some point, I began to find a strange comfort in refreshing my social media pages, enjoying the flux and change of a neat, packaged, little world. Here, your rawest emotions could be conveyed through inspirational quotes; and complex relationships could be smartly boxed into beaming photographs and trite symbols. Within this little world, there was no real messiness, no real pain.
Indeed, there was something so clean and polished about living on the Internet. There were patterns to it that I liked. It was easier to group people and define them. It was easier to define myself and what I liked. There has been times in my life where I have found it incredibly difficult to communicate with others. Cultivating my social media channels gave me a way of projecting a cut and copy version of myself to others. I could choose the articles that I wished to share and the comments that I could post and edit and delete. Social media provided an eclectic collage for me of cat videos and clickbait articles that I could fully immerse myself in.
Moreover, it meant that I could shout my opinions into a semi-real vacuum. I’ve never been too comfortable with myself physically. I’ve always found my body to be clumsy and lumbersome, with awkward limbs. On social media, I could strip away my flesh and my stooped shoulders and my eyes that I could not pull away from my shoes. The social media me could be brash and confident. She could make bold, provocative statements and argue for hours on end with strangers on comment sections. I felt as if through my Facebook page I could create a new, improved digital version of me.
Why Social Media Seemed Better than Real Life
During my worst times, this social media self was the mirror opposite of the real-life me. Outside of my Internet life, I was unresponsive and apathetic. I stumbled over my words and only thought of good comebacks days later. I’ve always been pretty good with words and writing, which have long been my weapon. With social media, I could write myself as a new, shining, flawless character. I could amend my public persona at my own leisure: Jules 2.0. At its heart, my obsessive social media use came from the desire to communicate; to push my thoughts and opinions seamlessly into the world.
Admittedly, even at the time of writing, when social situations get too much for me, my first response is all too often to go into the bathroom with my phone and scroll and scroll through my Facebook feed. Of course, social media is a great medium for staying in touch with friends and can be great fun. I would even go as far to say that social media platforms are a fantastic resource for those with an anxiety disorder. Not only can they connect us to others who are experiencing similar difficulties but they can be great sources of information. However, social media should not used as a primary tool to quell anxious thoughts. Indeed, social media use can, at times, be detrimental to a person’s mental health and wellbeing.
Using Social Media in a Healthy Manner
Despite social media often being used as a calming device before bedtime or during a lunch break, research has shown that social media use can actually lead to problems with relaxing. Therefore, anxiety sufferers should seek alternative ways to soothe themselves when they are particularly on edge. I have, personally, found that listening to relaxing music can help. Try making yourself a go-to anxiety playlist that you can access during the bad times.
Social media can also lead to many anxiety-inducing situations. If things aren’t going so great for you at the moment, then you may feel a genuine pang when you see the seemingly super fun lives of acquaintance's Facebook feeds. This feeling can be particularly pronounced when you suffer from anxiety. Remember that this is just a filter. For every moment captured of somebody laughing at a party, there are a thousand moments of self-doubt and boredom that remain uncaptured.
Furthermore, social media can open you up to nasty Internet trolls and bullies. I, myself, sound deceptively confident when debating online and in the past have opened myself up to cruel or misogynist abuse that I have not felt strong enough to deal with. It is, therefore, important to work on building your confidence in real life. I have found that by taking up a new hobby where you are interacting with people can boost your confidence immeasurably. This does not have to be anything extreme. If, like me, you are an introverted type of person, then attending a local book group or taking up an evening art class can work wonders.
A well-received comment or post should not replace the small successes of real life. For an anxiety sufferer, this can be anything from going into a large supermarket on your own to plucking up the courage to go and see a band that you like despite the crush of the audience around you. Remember to love the real you and not the Internet you. Social media addiction and anxiety are real, but so is the real you.
Banim, J. (2016, May 22). Social Media Addiction and Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, December 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2016/05/anxiety-and-social-media-addiction
Author: Julia Banim
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