In the midst of our modern world, there are a lot of common feelings associated with social media. Although people all over the world are constantly busy posting, liking and trending a never-ending stream of information, these perpetual actions may be a cause of social networking’s most universally felt sensation: anxiety.
With the rapidly growing influx and importance of social media within contemporary society, the psychological effects that the technology has on users have been observed in many different perspectives. One particular branch of research has investigated how the negative impacts of online networking cross into the realms of obsession and dependence, similar to an unhealthy relationship with an addictive substance. This research is supported by the comparable reports of withdrawal that occur when a person is cut off from a social media outlet that he or she uses on a daily basis. In addition, with the statistics showing that 74 percent of online adults use social networking sites, 40 percent of cellphone owners use a social networking app on their phone and 28 percent of phone users open the app on a typical day, it is not difficult to see how people crave these online connections.
However, while the overall usage of social media is a large focal point of current studies, there are other important aspects that should be additionally examined. One specific concept revolves around how individuals actively feel when using social networks, rather than when they are distanced from them. Although a dominant proportion of users experience general satisfaction when posting a photo on Instagram, pinning a design on Pinterest or receiving a wave of likes on Facebook, a sizeable percentage of users also go through a gamut of emotions related to their online status and participation.
The feeling is known by a few key terms and phrases, such as the fear of missing out (FOMO) or even the unofficial label as a disorder in its own right (SMAD or social media anxiety disorder). The concept is relatively new, but the obsession over the Internet’s many thriving social communities has a few telltale symptoms, including the frequent rechecking and refreshing of one’s updates for positive feedback, the lowered attention to real life activities and the distress in response to the updates of others.
For example, as part of a women’s lifestyle workshop, one 10th grade girl expressed, “You see your friends hanging out with other people on Facebook or even Snapchat, and you’re like ‘Oh, I’m alone right now’…And even if there’s no way you could get to them even if you wanted to, it still just makes you feel bad or lonely or sad.”
Another prominent source of anxiety that is also gaining awareness is the phenomenon of image crafting. Image crafting is essentially the act of carefully and deliberately constructing one’s social media content to control the way others view the person’s life. In contrast to normal life, which has its share of ups and downs, a person’s presence on the Internet is typically filtered to only the positive happenings in one’s life. Likewise, numerous amounts of users also boost the importance and wonderfulness of everyday activities. The combination of these actions creates an unrealistic portrayal of an individual’s life online that may attract attention and contribute to one’s self-worth.
This crafting of a practically perfect online image has a set of consequences related to it. First of all, the consistent and long-term concentration on the various details of one’s life can bring about strain in some cases. People have been shown to panic when confronted with unflattering photos they have been tagged in or when they do not receive the same amount of praise they usually receive. And with the excessive amount of statuses, photos and videos that people upload on a daily basis, the ability to keep up and control how that information is received becomes exponentially harder. Distress is experienced by a user’s network as well, as people who perceive an unrealistically enjoyable life better than their own may have to endure intense feelings of isolation and sadness.
As a whole, an accumulating pile of evidence shows that using social media in this day and age can be stressful when both separated from it and when engrossed by it. Regardless of how you interact with others online, it is important to be aware of how the experience makes you feel. If you or someone you know is afflicted with extreme anxiety in relation to an online social network, contact Anxiety Treatment Centers of California to seek help. Chat with our specialists online or call 855-972-9459.