Have you ever stopped to pay attention to how many times you check your social media notifications daily? Do you ever start to feel anxious if you go a few hours without checking?
The ADAA states that 20% of people may be experiencing social media anxiety symptoms, one of which is not feeling capable of going more than 3 hours without checking our notifications.
If we don’t start to pay attention and limit our screen time, we may be missing out on real-world experiences, and our relationships may start to suffer, too.
The role social media plays in mental health
As social creatures, humans need the companionship of others to thrive in life. The strength of our connections has an enormous impact on mental health and happiness. Feeling connected and having a sense of belonging can also:
- Ease stress
- Decrease anxiety and depression
- Improve self-esteem
- Provide comfort and happiness
- Prevent loneliness
While social media has its perks, it can never be a replacement for real-world human connection. In-person relationships trigger the hormones that work to alleviate stress and make you feel good and more positive. Ironically, for platforms designed to bring people close together, spending too much time engaging with social media can ultimately make you feel more lonely, depressed, and isolated.
Not having these types of firm, in-person, healthy social connections can pose a severe risk to your mental health and exacerbate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
What is social media anxiety?
If you feel like you may have social media anxiety, you may have a hard time being away from any type of account, whether Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or Instagram. Here are a few signs and symptoms of social media anxiety:
- Spending time with friends and family but interrupting them whenever a notification pops up.
- Feeling on edge or alert while waiting for a reply, comment, or response you recently posted.
- You may have started to lose interest in other things you used to enjoy and would prefer to be on your phone instead.
- You may feel more interested in commenting on friends’ posts and seeing what they’re up to rather than having those experiences on your own.
- Or, you may be partaking in different activities and experiences but feel more inclined to take post-worthy photos rather than immersing yourself in that experience.
- You may be neglecting your job or schoolwork.
- Things that were once important to you no longer matter as much (education, goals, work, etc.).
- You sometimes feel like something hasn’t ‘happened’ until it’s been posted online.
- Seeing your friends in person or calling them isn’t as engaging as talking to them online.
- You spend 6-8 hours a day on social media. (Researchers state that this is enough to conclude you may have social media anxiety.)
- You lie to others about how much time you spend online.
- You check your phone in the middle of conversations.
- You start to neglect or withdraw from your relationships with friends and family.
- You feel distracted or have trouble focusing at work by social media.
- Severe feelings of distress or anxiety when you cannot check your accounts for an extended period.
- Checking your ratio of followers/following and randomly adding strangers to your accounts.
Like with any addiction, you may even experience withdrawal symptoms if you don’t have access or can’t check your accounts. For example, if your phone dies and you don’t have a charger nearby, you may feel uneasy and anxious because now you can only check your notification if you go home or go out to buy a new charger. As a result, you may experience anxiety symptoms such as a racing heartbeat and shakiness.
The attachment that you may have to your accounts isn’t worth losing control of your mental health. There are ways you can keep in touch without missing out on real, genuine life experiences.
Coping with social media anxiety
Like any relationship, your relationship with social media should have a healthy balance. If you’ve been spending an excessive amount of time online and noticed that feelings of anxiety, worry, frustration, or fear are starting to impact your day to day life, here are a few things you can do:
Limit your time online. Tell yourself that you’ll stay away from social media in the mornings, and try only to update your posts at night. This way, you can enjoy your life, focus on what’s important throughout the day, and share how your day went before going to bed.
Look at your screen time on your phone. Luckily, most of our phones nowadays calculate how much time we spend on every app. Check out how much you spend on each app daily or weekly. You may be surprised by what you see, but ultimately this can help you lower your screen time down.
Try not to rely on social media as your only means of communication. Remember how nice it can be to listen to a friend’s voice on the phone or receive a hug in person. Appreciate what your loved ones can give you that you can’t receive online the next time you see them.
While it’s easier said than done, sometimes it’s not as simple as turning off your phone or computer and getting out of the house. If you feel that your social media anxiety is starting to get out of control, consider talking to a therapist or a counselor. They can help you process these obsessive feelings, learn a few coping strategies, and help you achieve your goals.
Looking for a therapist in North Carolina? Give us a call at Modern Era Counseling today. Our team of Charlotte counselors is committed to helping you manage anxiety and enhance your way of being alive.