Social Media, Anxiety and YOU

(Image Credit: ViewApart)

(Image Credit: ViewApart)

“Did someone like my status? Or see my newest picture on Instagram?” “I know I didn’t get a notification, but it won’t hurt to check just to be absolutely completely sure that nothing new happened on Facebook.” Yes, I’m one of those people. Someone who checks his social media accounts periodically, even when he knows decently well that nothing has happened. Rationally, I know it seems like borderline insane behavior – or at least the behavior of someone who is very anxious. But, at the same time, I know plenty of people just like me… Is social media making us crazy?

Without a doubt, people crave their virtual connections and smartphones. Just try threatening to take away someone’s phone for the day, or even an hour. Their whole demeanor will visibly change and they won’t want to partake in that activity one bit*. In fact, studies have shown that if you take a smartphone user away from their device, their anxiety levels increase noticeably after just ten minutes.

But can you really blame people for getting anxious? Their whole social lives are basically contained within their many profiles on various websites:

Many clubs and groups associated with high schools and colleges use Facebook as their primary means of communication – practically every group I was a part of in high school, and am currently in at college, uses Facebook regularly. Would it really be socially acceptable for me to ask for pictures of what people are doing when I could just follow them on Instagram and get them that way? And many of my friends would go on record saying, “Snapchat is for the people you don’t really talk to, but want to keep in touch with,” along with being for those people you are sincerely close with.

We as humans long for a sense of community and our little sectors within our virtual worlds give us that feeling. If that’s true, then you’ve got to wonder why people are quoted saying they feel they are not “living as much as they should be” because of the online world.

Consider this: I had a friend from high school – we’ll call him Frank – who did something unspeakable (hence why we’re calling him Frank) and got his phone taken away for a month, among other punishments, during our freshman year. He told me that, at first, being away from his phone was excruciating. He couldn’t text or call anyone and the only thing he wanted to know was what was happening on Facebook. But after about a week, he recalled, he began to feel “the best he’s ever felt in his life.” Sure, Frank was only fourteen at the time, but that’s still a bold statement for anyone to make.

He was amazed at how much time he had. He’d get home from school, do his homework right away (while understanding it better than he ever had before), spend more time with his family, be able to watch the TV shows he thought he didn’t have time for, practice basketball more often, and eat healthier. Had he really been checking his accounts so often that he was losing all this time he was so relieved to gain back? Perhaps.

And perhaps Frank was just exaggerating, but there is something scary about the way his story mirrors that of an addict’s withdrawl from their substance of choice. Because of his story, there’s always a part of me that would love to try going off the grid, even if it’s just for a week. Who knows, it could end up being the best week of my life!

Then again, I’ve had ample time to try it – I’m a sophomore in college now – and I still haven’t, which speaks volumes.

Here’s what I’ve concluded from all this:  We are spending so much time on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat that we’ve exceeded the peak of their benefits and are on the negative end of the slope. It’s not making us crazy, it’s making us obsessive. We yearn to feel the acceptance we once felt while at that peak, but as we spend longer and longer searching for that feeling in front of a screen, we’re getting further from it.

So try to really analyze your social media usage. Cutting out virtual world time and forcing yourself to stay away from “just ‘cause” checks could really cut down on your anxiety. Best of luck to you on your road to a more care-free, less social-media-filled, happy life!

*Those of you who say you’d be totally fine parting ways with your iPhone are either extraordinary humans or you’re lying – in which case you are not extraordinary and should stop lying, please.

 

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