IF SOMEONE dares you to deactivate all your social media accounts for a month, would you be able to do it?
In an age where internet has become one of the most basic human necessities, social media has infiltrated every aspect of human life in unbelievable ways. Its influence over economic and political arenas cannot be discounted. But its power is mostly on how it can penetrate human psyche, emotions, and decisions.
People can be happy just a few minutes only to become terribly upset because it’s been 5 minutes already and nobody still liked their photos!
Fingers swipe through news feeds so fast and people feel like complete losers for not being able to look as good as the others, not being able to travel as luxuriously as another, or not have the achievements others are proudly captioning as “blessed!”
When your emotional state is constantly influenced by social media and your actions start to become dependent on them, you may already be experiencing social media anxiety.
Social media anxiety has been described by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) as a mental health condition similar to that of social anxiety disorder wherein a person experiences “intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.”
Under this condition, people become constantly worried about being viewed as stupid, awkward, or boring, so they avoid actual interactions. Because of this distress, they may experience rapid heart rate, heavy sweating, nausea, headaches, or full-blown anxiety attacks. Needless to say, many irrational decisions are made under these circumstances.
In her article “Social Media Obsession and Anxiety”, founder and CEO of Stigma Fighters Sarah Fader reveals in details the phenomenon of social media anxiety wherein the most common symptoms are:
Interrupting conversations to check your social media accounts
Lying to others about how much time you spend on social media
Withdrawal from friends and family
Trying to stop or reduce your use of social media more than once before without being successful
Loss of interest in other activities
Neglecting work or school to comment on Facebook or Twitter account
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you are not able to access social media
Spending over six hours per day on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
Overwhelming need to share things with others on social media sites
Having your phone with you 24 hours a day to check your social media sites
Using social media more often than you planned
Severe nervousness or anxiety when you are not able to check your notifications
Negative impacts in your personal or professional life due to social media usage
According to Fader, tests have shown that obsessive use of social media can cause depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impulsive disorder, problems with mental functioning, paranoia, and loneliness. The comparison of one’s life over someone else’s looking so “perfect”, can drive others to feel intense jealousy, depression, or even suicidal thoughts. The loss of privacy and the pressure of keeping up a good profile are pressures that can be too great for a person’s emotional well-being.
Which is why she asks that if people want their lives to be as awesome as the people they see online, they have to get out and enjoy real life, not the social media “life.”
If you find this hard to do, just start by talking to someone as there are always people around who can help. Counselors or therapists can help you with this adjustment, so can joining organizations and offering your services for community work.
Social media are not all bad but we must always remember what these platforms are for.
They’re but a few of the ways we can make connections. They’re supposed to help us make better relationships. They’re not supposed to take the place of actual human interaction. No “LOLs” can ever replace the ring of a heartfelt laughter. No emojis can ever relate the wide array of emotions displayed in a face to face conversation. No news feed can ever be as effective as a book or an educational site with credible sources and well-researched data.
When you start to feel comfortable with just posting your life story or sending messages to your family and friends without seeing them in person or really being with them, then it’s time to unplug. Allow yourself to log out of the curated world of social media for a while and log in to reality.