Is Social Media Making Social Anxiety Worse?

Social media is a necessary part of our lives.  Whatever we do, our work, contacts, and interests are inextricably linked to social media. Social media has both positive and negative aspects.  In this article, we'll look at how social media affects our anxiety levels and what we can do to control and manage it better.  We are more connected than ever before, with the ability to communicate with distant relatives or friends in mere seconds. Geographical distance is meaningless if we want to foster connections and stay in touch. However, another side of the coin are the more negative aspects of social media.  

Cyberbullying and hate speech 

Cyberbullying and hate speech are widespread on social media.  The physical distance, as well as the ability to express anything, including heated comments directed at others or a group of people, create a sense of security and confidence that one may not have in the physical world.  It goes without saying that cyberbullying and the spread of hate speech contribute to an overall negative mental state. The study on adolescents and their use of social media found that cyberbullying is one of the factors contributing to poor mental health. 

Cyber bullying is unfortunately part of the experience of social media.

Social media addiction (SMA)

Social media addiction often leads to increased anxiety, as the constant pursuit of approval through likes and comments creates a cycle of stress and concern about online presence. Users may become overly focused on their interactions on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, leading to anxiety over the feedback they receive. The design of these platforms, with their ever-changing content and reward systems, keeps users in a state of continuous anticipation, heightening their anxious feelings. This pattern of compulsive checking and engagement with social media can disrupt everyday life, creating a persistent undercurrent of anxiety about social media interactions and one's digital image. Studies have even shown that SMA and stress both contribute to poor academic performance among college students. 

Decreased face-to-face communication and poorer relationship quality

Social media use reduces face-to-face communication, which can sometimes result in relationships becoming more superficial. Another interesting study found that reducing social media usage can improve a couple's relationship while also reducing anxiety and depression, which are frequently associated with social media addiction.

Spending too much time on social media can be isolating

Unrealistic Expectations

Social media often portrays images and lifestyles that are not realistic, leading people to feel inadequate compared to these idealized portrayals. This constant comparison can cause anxiety, as users are under pressure to match the high standards they see online. This pressure can make users more anxious about their real lives and personal achievements.

Body image

We are constantly bombarded with images of influencers and celebrities with flawless bodies and appearances on social media. This image of the perfect look confuses us and makes us believe that we will never be perfect or that perfection is impossible to achieve. The constant comparison to others creates anxiety and can impact one's mental health negatively.    

Tips on how to reduce the negative impacts of social media on our health 

Establishing Boundaries: 📴

Establishing boundaries for social media use is crucial, and this can be achieved by setting specific times for checking platforms, which helps prevent constant scrolling and reduces overwhelming exposure to anxiety-inducing content. 

Social Media Detox: ⏰

Additionally, engaging in periodic social media detox periods, where intentional breaks are taken from all platforms, allows your mind to reset and reduces dependency on digital validation. 

Curate Your Social Media Feed 🎨

It's also beneficial to curate your social media feeds to include positive and uplifting content, making a conscious effort to unfollow or mute accounts that trigger anxiety or negative feelings, thereby creating a more supportive online environment. 

Develop Healthy Coping Mechanisms 🥗

Practicing mindfulness and grounding techniques, such as deep breathing or focusing on physical sensations when using social media, can help you stay present and reduce the impact of anxiety-provoking posts. Meditation and other relaxation techniques can always help you find inner peace and return to the present moment. 

Check out an example of our relaxation techniques below for dealing with anxiety. These techniques help you become more present & focused on the here & now and can help you reflect on things that are bothering you right now.  Interested in learning about more relaxation techniques? Download our free iOS or Android app today!

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