Anxiety and Social Media

What happens, when you, as a relatively laid back, easy going person, suddenly becomes conscious and anxious about the who, what, why and when of posts on social media?

Maybe you are someone who tends to be anxious and this becomes magnified by looking at social media posts.

Why is this?

Compare and Despair

A large item contributing to social media anxiety is the compare-and-despair factor; that is, doctored pictures of friends on a night out, holidays, fun-filled days seems to make your mundane, disappointingly average weekend pale in comparison, the perfect portrait shot with perfect clothes, hair and make-up, which in turn can lead to unsettling anxiety (in short, fear of personal failure). Feelings of self-consciousness or a need for perfectionism can arise, which often manifests itself into social anxiety or pervasive thoughts that can lead to other obsessional thought processes.

Comparing can also lead to anxiety when it relates to followers. For example, teens using Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook have indicated that it's more about the quantity of your followers, re-tweets, and "likes." Users can take these figures and twist them to support negative thoughts. That moment when you check out someone else you know, and they have more followers than you and you start to self-doubt.

Fear of Missing out

Another social anxiety triggered by online media is the fear of missing out; pictures of a party where the user was not invited, or yet another wedding they weren't able to attend thanks to their existing commitments, family, relationships, work, can take a toll on self-esteem.

So, what do you do?

The first step is to literally take a step back. Step back from the posts and view it from the other perspective.

When do you mostly post on social media? When you’re having a great time (unless you’re a ‘lurker’ (someone who reads posts but rarely posts themselves and this is ok too).

When you’re feeling great, when you have something to be proud of.

That’s exactly what all those other people are doing. Not many post about all the screw-ups, the epic failed selfie’s, falling in a river and getting covered in weed moments (although those that are self-validating and can laugh at themselves will). The job that you weren’t successful for, the burnt dinner, the screaming foul-mouthed individual because the day just hasn’t gone to plan.

All these events mostly escape social media – why – because not many people want to advertise this.

The outcome is that we have a very unrealistic view about other peoples lives. We don’t see the ups and downs, we are only privy to the ups. And in reality, most people’s lives are a mixture of happy and crappy in various proportion – that mix is there, I promise you.

The next step is to distance yourself from this skewed view of life. See it for what it is – a celebration of all the great things that your friends, family and acquaintances are doing and start noticing that you too have great times. By viewing social media like this you can begin to shift your thoughts towards recognising the things we are grateful for, thankful for.

The next step is to then add humour where appropriate. That perfect posed selfie probably took hours and many attempts before it was ‘just right’, I can think of a lot of things I’d rather be doing than that. It’s ok to throw your breakfast in a bowl and scoff it – it doesn’t need to look like a top chef has taken up residence in your home. And if your family/friends are not achieving the same as Mrs Bucket’s perfect poppet then that’s ok too.

Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree then it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. (Albert Einstein).