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Social Media Anxiety — A Modern Day Addiction

08 May 2018 by Valerie Walker

Woman looking anxiously at her mobile phone

Social media is an integral part of our lives now, but do you love it or hate it, or a bit of both?

The premise under which it was first created was a good one, intended simply to help people stay in touch or reconnect with friends.  However, as the years have gone on and technology has advanced, social media has grown arms, legs and some very scary heads!

It’s not really a huge surprise that a recent survey suggested many teenagers are becoming tired of it, with almost two thirds wishing it had never been invented.  Some of this can be attributed to the harsh and cowardly use of it as a tool to bully and undermine others, but also recognition of the overpowering control it has over our lives now.

Social media is without doubt a modern-day addiction and research has shown that its use activates the same areas off the brain as addictive drugs.  So strong is the compulsion for social media it is now recognised as posing a threat to physical and psychological well-being, in addition to interfering with performance at school and work.   As with any overwhelming habit, staying away from it for any length of time is seen as a form of self-sacrifice or detoxification, one which most of us are not prepared to undertake.

In fact, this particular compulsion has even spawned its own acronym -  FOMO - Fear of Missing Out!  Which very accurately illustrate the dilemma so many of us suffer from…can’t live with it - can’t live without it.  

Who you are on social media and how you are perceived to live your life has become a core part of our identity, particularly in younger people.  Compare and despair is a common everyday occurrence, as we all become convinced that everyone is having a better time than we are, have more friends than we do and are generally much more interesting than we are.  The fact that deep down you know this is not necessarily true, does little to alleviate the feeling of despair.

We are therefore caught in a vicious trap where using social media becomes a source of stress and anxiety, but to be without it causes its own fear and anguish centring around social exclusion.   

While most of us readily acknowledge our compulsion for social media and admit that checking-in is the first thing we do in the morning and the last thing we do at night, how many of you recognise and acknowledge the stress that it is causing you?  Recent research has shown that in addition to anxiety, obsessive use of social media can cause depression, paranoia, loneliness, impulsive disorders and other problems with mental functioning.   

There are of course positives to having social media, not only as a much easier means of keeping in touch and rediscovering lost friends and family, but also the joy we feel on rediscovering memories from happy or important occasions that we posted years ago.

So, what can you do to get some balance and, dare I say,  reality back into your life? Going offline completely is a bit like going cold-turkey and is not necessarily needed.  However, cutting down on your interaction and approaching it with a much more pragmatic and questioning view is.  Getting out and enjoying your real life, not your social media life, seems like a good first step, but if you are crippled by social anxiety this may be easier said than done.

If you find that your life is being ruled by social media and you are constantly comparing yourself to others on it - and coming up short - then perhaps it is time to get some help and talk to someone about reducing your usage.  Likewise, if the thought of real face to face interaction fills you with dread, then it might be time to seek out some additional support.

Hypnotherapy, NLP and BWRT can work with social media addiction in the same way it can with any other form of compulsive behaviour.  It can also help you manage crippling social anxiety and enable you to get a life out-with your own social media world.
Is it time for a bit less FOMO and a bit more LOMO (Love of Missing Out) in your life?