Could Facebook Be Exacerbating Your Anxiety?

Whether being on Facebook makes you anxious depends on your temperament, age, how much time you spend there, and your purpose for being on the site. Many of us started using Facebook as adults and find it a fun way to stay in touch with family, friends, and acquaintances.

People who cannot easily get around because of age or disability report feeling more connected to the world via social media sites. However, Facebook can also be a source of pain and anxiety.

Why the Anxiety?

If you are at a time in life when identity and discovering where you fit in is an issue, which pretty much covers adolescence and young adulthood, Facebook can be an uncomfortable measure of popularity, indicating where you are included and excluded. FB can spread stories or rumors at warp speed, stories that may build you up, embarrass you, or tear you down.

Adolescent cruelty is nothing new. It existed B.C. (before computers) although it wasn’t available 24/7. While doing homework in their bedroom back in B.C. times, young people had a respite from the difficulties of daily school life. Most had time to lick their wounds instead of pulling up a FB homepage to get sprinkled with salt. Then, there is the matter of time.

Time melts quickly when on sites like FB, and other activities such as writing papers can get waylaid, producing anxiety for many students. Some users become anxious because they feel the need to keep up with everyone’s status or to constantly update their own.

I Might Miss Something

A study done with college students at an Edinburgh University showed that those most likely to experience FB anxiety were those “who had the most friends and invested the most time into the site . . .” Of the 200 students involved in the study, 12% reported anxiety associated with being on Facebook. Most of the 12 % had 30% or more FB friends than the other students.

Although this study was small, it does suggest that those who are very invested and are afraid they will miss something by not being on FB are the most at risk for anxiety.

Suggestions for Facebook Anxiety

  • The obvious thing to do is limit your Facebook time if the anxiety is mild, or close your account if the anxiety is interfering with other activities and your health.
  • Remember that having 258 FB friends is not the same as having close friends, those people who accept you no matter what. Having one or two good friends that stand by you is worth more than 1,000 friends on FB.
  • Experiment by staying off FB for one to three days. How much did you really miss by doing that? Did you feel relieved?
  • You can limit your FB friend list to family and friends that care about you.
  • What fun thing could you do with time not spent on Facebook or other social sites? It is easier to limit or stop a behavior when it’s replaced with something you enjoy.
  • Limit the type of information you share on FB, or “specialize” in specific types of posts. Some people post primarily humorous animals pics, or beautiful landscapes, fun jewelry, sports items, or good music they have discovered. If you can make FB fun again, there is no reason to close your account.

Listen to the Anxiety

If something consistently makes you or someone you know anxious, ask yourself why? New challenges, new places, and people make most of us anxious for a time. We can also become anxious when trapped in behavior, or have so much invested in an activity it becomes a source of worry.

Your health and well-being will always be more important than almost anything else in your life. As much as possible, do what you enjoy.

Photo: Pexels

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