Social Media Is Causing Anxiety Study Finds
Got the fears?
According to a recent study released by non-profit Anxiety UK, over half of the social media users polled said Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites had changed their lives — and 51 percent of those said it’s not been for the better.
Forty-five percent of responders said they feel “worried or uncomfortable” when email and Facebook are inaccessible, while 60 percent of respondents stated “they felt the need to switch off” their phones and computers to secure a full-fledged break from technology. In other words, it’s not being on social networks that makes people anxious. It’s being away from them.
“These findings suggest that some may need to re-establish control over the technology they use, rather than being controlled by it, says Anxiety UK CEO, Nicky Lidbetter.
Data also revealed that two-thirds of respondents had difficulty sleeping after using social media, and 25 percent admitted to difficulties in relationships because of “confrontational online” behavior, per the Telegraph.
The survey was conducted by the Salford Business School at the University of Salford, where 228 participants were polled for Anxiety UK’s research.
While the study consists of a small sample size, Salford’s data backs up other information on social media addiction. In a recent study Mobile Mindset study by Lookout, it was found that 73 percent of people would panic if they lost their smartphone, while another 54 percent admit to checking their phone “while lying in bed.”
Does Anxiety Drive Excessive Usage
One way or another, anxiety seems inextricably linked to the use of social media, and a swath of recent papers seem to suggest that this link is one of the core drivers of digital usage. These data show that, while many people who use social media a great deal are anxious, when they are not using social media they turn to social media to reduce this withdrawal anxiety and end up with another form of anxiety produced by engaging with their digital platforms. The implications for the mental health of this double anxiety whammy are clear, and research even suggests that some people turn to alcohol to reduce their stress levels while they are posting on social media!
One of these recent studies has shown that higher amounts of screen time are associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression1 adding to the already copious literature on the subject2. What is striking about this new study, however, is that it provides longitudinal data to suggest that, over a time course of four years, adolescents who use social media a lot of show corresponding increases in their levels of anxiety and depression. To this extent, this study develops the literature, as a temporal relationship is a stronger piece of evidence than a correlational one obtained from two measures taken at the same time as one another.
Can Social Media Help With Symptoms Of Social Anxiety
Theres limited research on the potential benefits of social media in general, and particularly for people living with social anxiety.
Some people may think that interacting in the online world is easier for someone with social anxiety disorder. It would mean you didnt have to face other people or fear their reactions.
In fact, some research suggests that living with social anxiety disorder may lead you to use social media more often, and sometimes compulsively.
However, a virtual setting doesnt necessarily decrease the source of your anxiety when you live with this condition. While you may feel more comfortable at some level, you could still be worried about judgment and scrutiny. There are some exceptions, though.
A 2014 study showed that perceived Facebook social support may benefit people living with social anxiety symptoms.
Basically, study participants living with the disorder who felt supported by other Facebook users reported feeling more at ease and enjoying social media, compared to those who didnt experience this support.
A 2016 review of research also found that people with social anxiety who experienced social support and connectedness while using social media benefited greatly when they didnt have offline access to these resources.
The review also pointed to a few findings suggesting that people with social anxiety may be more prone to problematic social media use.
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Causes And Effects Of Smartphone And Internet Addiction
While you can experience impulse-control problems with a laptop or desktop computer, the size and convenience of smartphones and tablets means that we can take them just about anywhere and gratify our compulsions at any time. In fact, most of us are rarely ever more than five feet from our smartphones. Like the use of drugs and alcohol, they can trigger the release of the brain chemical dopamine and alter your mood. You can also rapidly build up tolerance so that it takes more and more time in front of these screens to derive the same pleasurable reward.
Heavy smartphone use can often be symptomatic of other underlying problems, such as stress, anxiety, depression, or loneliness. At the same time, it can also exacerbate these problems. If you use your smartphone as a security blanket to relieve feelings of anxiety, loneliness, or awkwardness in social situations, for example, youll succeed only in cutting yourself off further from people around you. Staring at your phone will deny you the face-to-face interactions that can help to meaningfully connect you to others, alleviate anxiety, and boost your mood. In other words, the remedy youre choosing for your anxiety , is actually making your anxiety worse.
Sleep Deprivation And Depression
Some of the ways in which social media use impacts mood may be indirect. For instance, one of the most common contributors to depression in teenagers is sleep deprivation, which can be caused, or exacerbated, by social media.
Research shows that 60 percent of adolescents are looking at their phones in the last hour before sleep, and that they get on average an hour less sleep than their peers who dont use their phones before bed. Blue light from electronic screens interferes with falling asleep on top of that, checking social media is not necessarily a relaxing or sleep-inducing activity. Scrolling on social media, notes Dr. Hamlet, can easily end up causing stress.
Social media can have a profound effect on sleep, adds Dr. Bubrick. You have the intention to check Facebook or Instagram for 5 minutes, and the next thing you know 50 minutes are gone. Youre an hour behind in sleep, and more tired the next day. You find it harder to focus. Youre off your game, and it spirals from there.
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Is There A Role For Social Media In Perpetuating Anxiety And Loneliness
Posted December 15, 2016
Is there a role for social media in perpetuating anxiety through feelings of disconnection and loneliness? At first glance, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter seem to be a modern means of facilitating our connectedness with others, sharing activities and news, and keeping in touch with friends both old and new. But new technologies are usually a mixture of both good and bad, and modern social media are no different.
First, loneliness appears to have a reciprocal relationship with social anxiety. Social anxiety is an anxiety problem where a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations. Social anxiety is known to facilitate loneliness but loneliness also increases social anxiety and feelings of paranoia, and this may represent a cyclical process that is especially active in the young and in our modern times may be mediated by the use of social media.
So how might social media be involved? Loneliness in the young is largely a function of perceived friendship networks. Effectively, feelings of loneliness increase the fewer friends that an individual has. 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, paranoia, and mental health generally.
Reaching Out For Help
Even if it doesnt feel like it right now, there are many people who want to support you during this difficult time. Reach out to someone. Do it now. If you promised yourself 24 hours or a week in step #1 above, use that time to tell someone whats going on with you. Talk to someone who wont try to argue about how you feel, judge you, or tell you to just snap out of it. Find someone who will simply listen and be there for you.
It doesnt matter who it is, as long as its someone you trust and who is likely to listen with compassion and acceptance.
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Helping A Child Or Teen With Smartphone Addiction
Any parent whos tried to drag a child or teen away from a smartphone or tablet knows how challenging it can be to separate kids from social media, messaging apps, or online games and videos. Youngsters lack the maturity to curb their smartphone use on their own, but simply confiscating the device can often backfire, creating anxiety and withdrawal symptoms in your child. Instead, there are plenty of other ways to help your child find a healthier balance:
Be a good role model. Children have a strong impulse to imitate, so its important you manage your own smartphone and Internet use. Its no good asking your child to unplug at the dinner table while youre staring at your own phone or tablet. Dont let your own smartphone use distract from parent-child interactions.
Use apps to monitor and limit your childs smartphone use. There are a number of apps available that can limit your childs data usage or restrict texting and web browsing to certain times of the day. Other apps can eliminate messaging capabilities while in motion, so you can prevent your teen using a smartphone while driving.
Create phone-free zones. Restrict the use of smartphones or tablets to a common area of the house where you can keep an eye on your childs activity and limit time online. Ban phones from the dinner table and bedrooms and insist theyre turned off after a certain time at night.
Social Media And The Evolution Of Social Interactions
If there is one thing the 21st century has brought more of into our lives, it is the enterprise known as social media. From things like Facebook to Twitter, or more picture oriented apps such as Instagram, the way people interact with each other has changed and evolved in ways our grandparents and even our parents could never have imagined in their youth. In years gone by, social interactions revolved around face-to-face interactions, although letter writing could also be a means of communication as well. The telephone has allowed one not see the face of the person one is talking to yet it was still in real-time and needed social awareness to navigate.
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Whats Triggering About Social Media
- Seeing people posting about events to which you havent been invited
- Feeling pressure to post positive and attractive content about yourself
- Feeling pressure to get comments and likes on your posts
- Having someone post things about you that you cannot change or control
In analyses of thousands of adolescents reactions to digital stressors, Weinstein and her colleagues have found even more challenges:
- Feeling replaceable: If you dont respond to a best friends picture quickly or effusively enough, will she find a better friend?
- Too much communication: A boyfriend or girlfriend wants you to be texting far more often than youre comfortable with.
- Digital FOMO: If youre not up-to-date on the latest social media posts, will it prevent you from feeling like you can participate in real-life conversations at school the next day?
- Attachment to actual devices: If your phone is out of reach, will your privacy be invaded? Will you miss a message from a friend when he needs you?
The Digital Age Of Vulnerability
The earlier teens start using social media, the greater impact the platforms have on mental health. This is especially true for females. While teen males tend to express aggression physically, females do so relationally by excluding others and sharing hurtful comments. Social media increases the opportunity for such harmful interactions.
Sperling offers the example of a seventh grader whose best friend chooses a new best friend and posts pictures of the pair at the movies or on a weekend trip. Twenty years ago, the girl may have been excluded from her best friends activities, but she may not have known about it unless she was told explicitly, Sperling says.
In addition to providing young people with a window through which they can view missed experiences, social media puts a distorted lens on appearances and reality. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat increase the likelihood of seeing unrealistic, filtered photos at a time when teen bodies are changing.
In the past, teens read magazines that contained altered photos of models. Now, these images are one thumb-scroll away at any given time. Apps that provide the user with airbrushing, teeth whitening, and more filters are easy to find and easier to use. Its not only celebrities who look perfectits everyone.
When theres a filter applied to the digital world, it can be hard for teens to tell whats real and what isnt, which comes at a difficult time for them physically and emotionally.
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Data Extraction And Data Synthesis
Two raters reviewed all abstracts returned from the literature search and selected abstracts for full-text reading based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria. All articles that included measurement of depression, anxiety, or well-being were retained. The selected full-text articles were downloaded and reviewed by the first and third authors.
To provide some preliminary evaluation of the strength of the research, three risk of bias indicators were adapted from the Cochrane bias tool , which classifies methodology that may limit replicability or generalizability. Studies were rated to indicate whether the study included psychometrically reliable and valid measures, used an external measurement criterion for mental health, and provided description of the sample demographics including some SNS activity statistics . These were rated by the first and third authors from 0=No bias,1=Unclear risk of bias, and 2=High risk of bias and were summed to create a final score between 0 and 6. A linear weighted kappa statistic for interrater reliability indicated that there was very good agreement in applying the bias criteria. Consensus was reached on all ratings. Articles with a rating of 3 or above were excluded , resulting in the final set of 70 studies, as presented in .