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 (Anxiety.org, 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 Avoid It?
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!
Anxiety.org (2016). Is your online addiction making you anxious? Retrieved from https://www.anxiety.org/social-media-causes-anxiety
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 https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/mood-anxiety-disorders-canada.html
Lang, N. (2015). Facebook is annihilating your self-esteem, and you’re not alone. Retrieved from http://www.salon.com/2015/12/10/facebook_is_annhilating_your_self_esteem_and_youre_not_alone_partner/
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 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wired-success/201405/how-facebook-can-amplify-low-self-esteemnarcissismanxiety