Social media has changed the way people interact. We can now remain in constant contact with hundreds of so-called friends, even ones we rarely see in person. Social anxiety is an anxiety problem where a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations.
Is there a role for social media in perpetuating anxiety through feelings of disconnection and loneliness?
So how might social media be involved?
Loneliness in the young is largely a function of perceived friendship networks. In the modern-day, social media such as Facebook and Twitter are a significant contributor to the friendship networks of young people, so whether you perceive yourself to be a successful user of social media is likely to have an impact on feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and mental health generally.
You can compare your popularity with that of your peers, and manage that adolescent ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) by continually monitoring what’s going on socially. Many people use social networking sites, in general, to relieve themselves of their loneliness.
But what was interesting was that this stress wasn’t a function of how small a respondent’s social network was, but how large it was – the larger the Facebook network, the greater the stress – so a large network of friends on social networking sites may also be an added source of stress to today’s young people.
This is a significant sign of addiction – for many of us, our social media is often the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing we check before going to sleep!
Social media such as Facebook and Twitter provide constant updates which can turn a mere interest in social networks into an unhealthy, stressful compulsion that not only affects stress levels but leads to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem
Recent research has shown that using social networking sites, namely, Facebook, can increase people’s stress levels, produce anxiety and negatively affect a person’s sense of self. Another study showed that Facebook increases people’s anxiety levels by making them feel inadequate and generating excess worry and stress. Social media provides constant updates.
This motivates many people to continually check their status and newsfeed on mobile devices. In this study, over half of the respondents felt uneasy when they were unable to access their social media and email accounts.
The researchers found that when the participants increased their Facebook use, their state of well-being declined, while those who increased the amount of time, they spent with people face to face had an increased sense of well-being.
Although there are many benefits, it is important to remember the possible downsides of social media sites and their use to help people who are vulnerable to mental health problems, such as anxiety disorder or depression, to not develop or exacerbate existing problems due to using
For example, feelings of disconnectedness are associated with passive interactions with Facebook, such as using it only to update your activities or merely scanning the activities of friends. If you log on to Facebook every day as more than half of all Facebook users in the world do, and you use it in this passive way, it will merely reinforce your feelings of disconnectedness.
What comes out of these findings of the use of social networking sites is that loneliness and social anxiety do indeed appear to facilitate the use of these sites – often to the point of addiction, when there is an unhealthy desire to spend hours each day checking these sites. However, even with a good-sized social network on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, there come added stressors and feelings of disconnectedness, anxieties that can cause physical health problems and negatively affect academic performance in the young