Social media and its link to anxiety and depression isn’t a new discovery. But many people continue to struggle with feeling stress while using well-known social media platforms. That means it’s an ongoing problem for society. And it may be a problem for you.
Why is social media often connected to feeling stressed and sad? Psychologists believe it’s a combination of the unpredictability of how social media can make you feel and FOMO—fear of missing out.
The chance to feel happy by scrolling social media or posting on sites may be just that—a chance, not a certainty. And that possibility can be almost irresistible. Think of entering a contest to win a prize. You know it’s not certain you’ll win, but the possibility you might is what convinces you to enter your name or buy a ticket.
Uncertainty has power
It’s similar to social media. But social media can have greater significance because it’s about you and how you’re perceived in public. And the “payoff” (or lack of it) may be more immediate. You don’t know which post, comment, tweet, or photo might be the one to “win” attention or a positive response. If you don’t get the response you were hoping for, it may make you sad or anxious.
Fear of missing out is what keeps many people scrolling through various social media sites. Anxiety may happen if you’re faced with a network or power outage. You may be afraid you’re missing something that others see before you do. Or, you may worry you’re missing invitations to important events. You may also feel anxiety if you’re unable to monitor your reaction to your previous posts.
Ways to Cope
How can you deal with the negative effects of social media? These steps may reduce anxiety and sadness linked to social media:
- Don’t scroll through social media platforms right before bed. What you see may make you anxious. That may make it more difficult to fall asleep. Not enough sleep can add to feelings of anxiety.
- Keep in mind that social media posts often don’t reflect reality. Rarely do people post about their failures, financial issues, their child who’s a bully , or their unhappy marriage? Yet everyone goes through problems at one time or another. Whatever others are posting is simply a slice of their life, not representative of everything in it.
- Avoid stalking people online. Don’t over-research someone you recently “met” online who you may meet in real life. Knowing aspects about them that they don’t know you know isn’t helpful. It can add to your stress as you continue to communicate with them. Let a friendship or relationship develop naturally by letting the other person reveal things to you over time.
- Be careful with comments, but don’t overthink them. When chatting with others online, try to focus as much as possible on what they’re saying rather than on how you think your comments may come across. Focusing too much on yourself can lead to anxiety.
- Engage with others. Participate more in social media groups, rather than silently scrolling. A 2019 study found that passive social media use was related to greater symptoms of anxiety among teenagers, while active social media use was related to a decrease in these symptoms. Once you’ve posted something, move to another activity not connected to social media so you’re not tempted to repeatedly check the reaction your post received.
Some amount of anxiety will always be associated with social media, but these steps may minimize the negative feelings you have when scrolling through your favorite platforms.
New patients can call Bayless Integrated Healthcare at 602-777-6337 for a free, 15-minute wellness consultation. You can also click here to make an appointment online. Remember, if you are experiencing a crisis, please call 911 immediately