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Social Anxiety Without Socializing

May 10, 2020 George Abitante

It sounds strange to discuss social anxiety without socializing in person, but the new landscape of communication has led to uniquely stressful challenges.

Video calls, while absolutely crucial during this time, are an entirely different way of speaking with others. Social cues that typically defined how a conversation would progress are, in many ways, absent. Delays in others' video feed make it difficult to rely on visual cues, and lag in audio can lead to multiple people speaking at once without a clear way to establish who should go next.

Additionally, planning meetings or video call gatherings has its own set of challenges, including deciding who should be invited and when they should be held, which can be challenging simply because schedules don't mean what they once did. In short, the new social landscape has not eliminated the conditions for social anxiety -- it seems to have created new ways to feel anxious without socializing. 

Social Anxiety Without Socializing in the Remote Age

I don't think everything about the quarantine times exacerbates social anxiety. In fact, I think there may be less social anxiety overall than usual because of the reduced expectations and frequency of social gatherings. (If you've noticed your social anxiety has been reduced, please share your experiences in the comments.)

Though some things may have improved, I do think the unique challenges I brought up above have left individuals facing obstacles they haven't necessarily seen before.

Social anxiety without socializing is affecting many of us. For example, social cues are much easier to read in person, so there are fewer signals for how one should behave during video/audio calls. Additionally, with less defined schedules than normal, it may feel like you're supposed to be reaching out to all of your friends more often, which can exacerbate feelings of social anxiety, even without socializing in person. 

Get Coping Strategies for Social Anxiety Without Socializing

If you're struggling with anything I mentioned (or anything I didn't mention), these tips may be helpful to you. 

  1. It's okay not to __. I think one of the most common feelings people have is that they're supposed to be working more than ever, or making positive life changes if they have more time on their hands. This is not accurate in the slightest. This time is perhaps the most stressful of people's lives, whether they've lost a job, are working a job while parenting all day, or have a loved one who is sick. So my most important suggestion is to remind yourself that it's okay not to do something more. Just getting through whatever challenges you're facing is enough, and you don't need to be socializing more, or saying the perfect thing during your complex video conferences. Use this tip to bring your expectations and concerns back to the basics. 
  2. Ask for new cues. I often find the most straightforward (but perhaps least used) strategy for resolving most problems is being direct and just bringing up whatever is bothering you. If video conferences have been anxiety-provoking because it's hard to tell when you should speak, bring it up at your next meeting. Your co-workers/friends/family will most likely just appreciate you bringing up what they didn't know how to handle. Identifying new ways to structure the conversation and even scheduling gatherings can take a lot of the load off of you and consequently reduce your social anxiety
  3. Make a list. Last but not least, I'm a big fan of writing lists, and this can be an effective way to manage social anxiety as well. If you're worried about video conferences, try writing out a list of ways you can speak up during a video call, whether that's sharing something from your weekend or asking a question of someone else. If you're feeling anxious about calling friends enough, try writing out a list of three people you want to call this week. Having a structured list of what you want to accomplish can be a great way to make your social anxiety more concrete and manageable. 

Having social anxiety without socializing is one of the new challenges we face in the time of COVID-19, and the most important thing to remember is that you're already doing enough as is. I hope these strategies will help you cope more effectively with anxiety without socializing, and leave you feeling healthier and happier each day. 

APA Reference
Abitante, G. (2020, May 10). Social Anxiety Without Socializing , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, August 11 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2020/5/social-anxiety-without-socializing



Author: George Abitante

George received his Master's degree in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern University and is pursuing his PhD in Clinical Psychology at Vanderbilt University. Find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @AbitanteGeorge.

Lizanne Corbit
May, 12 2020 at 3:25 pm

I love the coping strategies that you shared! This is truly such an interesting time in all regards and you bring up a true and fascinating point. As we are relying more and more on text communication and video calls it can be tricky to decipher intention and energy behind things -- this is enough to cause some stress! I think this is a wonderfully expressed concept that many of us can relate to on one level or another.

May, 12 2020 at 3:42 pm

Hi Lizanne,
Thanks for your thoughtful comment! I like your point about deciphering intention and energy -- understanding where others are coming from can be harder than usual! Hope you and your family are safe and well,
George

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