Katy Morin

Is Social Media Causing You More Social Anxiety?

Social Media — has been touted as the “future of marketing” and yet, at the same time, blamed for higher rates of anxiety. But what is actually true? We’re not too sure that we have all the facts straight.

Perhaps one side is right or maybe it isn’t either way – but there are plenty of sides to take a stand on! So let us explore what social media can do for you and how you might be able to make it work for your situation. There is always room for improvement from what we know about social media and mental health, whether it causes more anxiety or less anxiety or none whatsoever.

We have a built-in need to fit in. Social scientists call this innate response Social Comparison Theory. Basically, this theory states that we determine our self-worth by comparing ourselves to others. Even though this is a natural response, when counting on validation from others or focusing solely on how we stack up to everyone else, we can become trapped in dissatisfaction. Social network sites are particularly easy to overdo the comparisons and validation, especially when you’re spending time on them trying to make sure your posts are as good or better than everyone else’s. So, at times, you might find yourself anxious about how your photos stack up to photos of others or how many “likes” you get compared to other people’s posts.

On the other hand, social media can be a positive outlet for expressing emotions and finding support if you’re having a bad day. Social media allows you to connect with people who are in similar situations as you or share your unique stories and experiences. You can also learn from others. But, if you’re caught up in comparison, doing this right could actually lead to your anxiety worsening. So how can you manage both the good and the bad? By focusing on what makes YOU happy and not so happy rather than comparing yourself to others!

So, social comparison is nothing new—social media did not create it. It does, however, open up our world and we now have lots more people to compare ourselves to. Instead of only trying to keep up with the Jones’, we now compare the quality of our lives and our success and happiness with people all around the globe.

Studies of how Facebook and other social media outlets affect our lives can explain some of the reasons we continue to plug in on a regular basis. We all know people who are constantly checking their status updates and stop whatever they are doing when they hear the ping that they have a new notification. Many studies are showing that we are happier and mentally healthier when we access our social media less frequently.
One such study demonstrated that participants who avoided their Facebook account reported being happier in just one week because they felt more present in their actual lives.
So, what can we do to reduce our social comparison on social media? Here are a couple of suggestions.

Obviously, the less time you spend on social media, the less effect this kind of social comparison will have on you. You may find you need to go cold-turkey for a week to recognize what a difference it makes. And, if you do have a guilty social media habit, try using a time management platform such as RescueTime to limit your internet and social media usage.

Live your life
When you aren’t caught up in constantly checking your status updates, you’ll actually live your life. You’ll be more engaged in things that really matter instead of wishing you had the perfect life like so-and-so. 

Be open-minded
As you are checking up on your social media, keep an open mind about how other people lead their lives. They aren’t you and they don’t have to live their lives as you do. Remember that every social media post is framed by someone’s point of view. Try not to take every single post so seriously and try to remember that everyone is trying to show themselves in the best light.

Schedule social media time
It’s easy to get sucked into Facebook-land. So you don’t waste your life in front of your computer, set aside 10-15 minutes a day to participate in social media. Finally, consider “unfriending” those people who seem to trigger your social comparison negatively the most. It’s important to note that social media does provide a lot of great benefits. But the point is that you can still live a very happy, fulfilling life without being on Facebook every minute of the day.

By focusing on the positive aspects of social media and avoiding the negative aspects, you can learn to live a better life while also reducing your anxiety.
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