Social Media Use and Anxiety

We are undeniably connected with social networking such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and those alike, but mental health professionals are expressing concern when it comes to social media and the effects it can have on anxiety.

Social media use is on the rise and has been for some time. According to Perrin (2015) (as cited in Vannucci, Flannery, & McCauley Ohannessian, 2017), 90% of young adults use social media with most of them reporting the usage of 2 or more sites and visiting daily. In 2013, an estimated 3 million Canadians aged 18 or older reported having a mood or anxiety disorder (Government of Canada, 2013). With the burden of anxiety peaking and emerging in early adulthood (Vannucci, Flannery, & McCauley Ohannessian, 2017), it is no wonder why there may be some correlation.

Anxiety Towards Use of Social Media

The use of social media has been linked to anxiety in research done by Kathy Charles at Edinburgh Napier University. Her study concluded that 12% of users felt anxiety when using Facebook, 30% stated they felt guilty when ignoring a friend request, and there were negative attitudes towards updating statuses, and the rules of social media (Williams, 2014). So why are we so anxious when opening up our social media sites? 3 factors are described below

3 Factors that Influence Anxiety


As human beings, we are naturally apt to compare ourselves to others. Kind of a “Keeping up with the Joneses’” type thing. Social Media allows us to portray the parts of our lives that we want others’ to see. We are able to show the best part of ourselves, and airbrush out the rest. Social media sites allow for pointing out users insecurities and promote feelings of loneliness, competition, and envy (Lang, 2015). Your co-workers Mexico vacation may look better than your Friday night ice cream escapade, or the constant update on your cousin’s relationship may have you asking questions of why that isn’t you. Whatever the insecurity, comparing can lead to low feelings of self-worth and fear of personal failure (, 2016). It has also been said that the longer we have been using social media, the more we believe people are happier than us and the less we agree that life is fair (Chou &, Edge, 2012).

Unable to Disconnect and Relax

What happens when you lose your phone? What about leaving it at home? For some, this is the ultimate anxiety situation; How will I be connected? How will I know what’s going on? What will I do on my train ride home? Studies have shown that obsessive compulsive behaviors such as checking the phone are common. Research done by Nokia found that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day! (Ahonen, 2011, as cited in Rosen, Whaling, Carrier, & Cheever, 2013) That is every six and a half minutes during waking hours. There is panic when we are not connected, leading us to our final factor: Fear of missing out.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

The fear of missing out can be defined as “uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you” (JWT Marketing Communications, 2012, as cited in Abel, Buff, & Burr, 2016). Essentially, it is a fear that we are not included or in the know. With the rise of social media use, the FOMO phenomenon has increased and individuals are feeling more irritability, inadequacy, and anxiety (Abel, Buff, & Burr, 2016). Low feelings of self-worth can rear their ugly head, we can begin to have negative views of ourselves, and we can begin to doubt our happiness.

How Can We Limit Anxiety?

Fortunately, there are many tips and tricks said to help cope and manage the anxiety of social media use. Unfortunately, it could be a whole other blog. Take a look at some of the sites below!

Further Readings

References (2016). Is your online addiction making you anxious? Retrieved from

Abel, J.P., Buff, C.L., & Burr, S.A. (2016). Social media and the fear of missing out: Scale development and assessment. Journal of Business and Economics Research, 14 (1), 33-44.

Chou, H.T.G., & Edge, N. (2012). “They are happier and having better lives than I am”: The impact of using facebook on perceptions of others’ lives. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 15 (2), 117-121. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2011.0324.

Government of Canada (2013). Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Canada. Retrieved from

Lang, N. (2015). Facebook is annihilating your self-esteem, and you’re not alone. Retrieved from

Rosen, L.D., Whaling, K., Rab, S., Carrier, L.M., Cheever, N.A. (2013). Is Facebook creating iDisorders? The link between clinical symptoms of psychiatric disorders and technology use, attitudes and anxiety. Computers in Human Behavior, 29, 1243-1254. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2012.11.012

Vannucci, A., Flannery, K.M., McCauley Ohannessian, C. (2017). Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults. Journal of Affective Disorders, 207, 163-166. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.08.040

Williams, R. (2014). How Facebook can amplify low self-esteem/Narcissism/ Anxiety. Retrieved from



Author: alyshadoria

Alysha Doria works in the private career college sector in Ontario for Herzing College. She is currently Regional Director of Compliance for Ontario locations and an Academic Director for immigration consultant online and Kompass Professional Development (a subsidiary of Herzing). Her primary focus is curriculum development for Kompass. She seeks to develop certificate programs that allow individuals advance their skills in their field. In the last year, Alysha has developed three professional development certificate programs and has gone through two accreditation processes for Immigration Consultant and Mediation. Recently, Alysha has been promoted to a Systems Administrator for Academics where she participates in technological developments, diffusion of technology into the organization, and assists in streamlining academic processes Canada wide.

3 thoughts on “Social Media Use and Anxiety”

  1. I love your post, Alysha. I had anxiety about leaving my phone while I was away on a trip and after the first day the anxiety went away. I highly recommend that everyone should try to go away and leave their technology behind. It gives you a sensation of freedom. When I have technology on me, I feel obligated to check my messages and respond to emails. But when I don’t it, I am free from this feeling. It is truly liberating. I am going to be doing this more often. I don’t care that people can’t reach me. I have a right to be free from messages and the obligation to respond. I want to do it for a longer period of time. If you are feeling anxious, Alysha, about giving up your technology, I know exactly how you feel. But if you try it once, for just a day at first, you might feel that you might like the feeling of not having to exchange messages with people or respond to their inquiries. Perhaps in time you will be able to free yourself for longer periods of time. Just a thought 🙂


  2. Alysha I enjoyed your blog post. Really supported a lot of the discussion we had last week. I think certain aspects of technology (social media) can be much more influential in enhancing people’s levels of anxiety than others. Social media platforms such as FaceBook, YouTube, and Twitter would be much more conducive to enhancing one’s anxiety level than other digital applications. How do we as educators harness the potential inherent in technology while at the same time teach students to be cognizant of the potential negative aspects of their over-use? Where do you draw the line between advocating for the use of certain technologies and expressing restraint and caution?


    1. Colin, I think this has much to do with the discussions we have had in the past about it being a community issue. I do not think the onus is all on the teacher to teach students the psychological effects of social media use. I think it takes parents, teachers, administrators and anyone else who is involved with the student to promote the safe use of technology.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s