In an already high pressured and fast-paced world, kids, people in the workplace and parents raising children are feeling the stresses of money, exams, competition and just not feeling good enough more than ever. Now on top of these pressures due to the accessibility of a window into the rest of society’s lives, we can now compare ourselves to friends, acquaintances and well, just any Tom Dick or Harriet.
Of course, the life that is presented to us on the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is exactly what they want the world to believe. Exaggerated, filtered and with meticulously thought out angles. End result? Perfection! We all know that our own lives are anything but. Still, we believe that the happy holiday pictures, flawless faces and top new job posts are a true representation of a charmed life, one we don’t have.
Even in matters of parenting, mums and dads are exposed to a barrage of boast posts. Little Tommy has just started walking at 4 months and little Lily has completed her first novel aged 6! I have one friend who quit Facebook for the past 2 years due to the stress of competitive parenting. In the real world you walk away, go home and forget about it, but with 20% of us not being able to go more than 3 hours without checking our accounts, we never get away from it.
In the 1980s 4% of Americans suffered with anxiety disorders, it’s no surprise that in recent years it’s more like 50%!
Although not officially psychiatrically diagnosed this problem now has a title. SMAD, Social Media Anxiety Disorder.
Here are 8 of the biggest culprits.
- FOMO (Fear of missing out on something more fun) on a social date that might just happen on the spur of the moment. This feeling can be so intense, even when we’ve decided to disconnect, we still connect just once more, just to make sure. Even worse is seeing photos of that party that you weren’t invited to.
- Feeling inadequate. Paying so much attention to what you’re not, you have no idea who you are. This could be social or work-related. Jane has a new baby, why don’t I yet? Kim just married, I’ve never even been engaged! Ken has been promoted, why have been overlooked again at my work? What’s wrong with me?
- Self-image, compare and despair. Apart from hours of expertly applied makeup contouring and carefully thought out perfect angles, new technology now enables anyone with a smartphone to radically alter reality. We can slim our face and body’s, remove wrinkles and whiten our teeth. We can even digitally alter our hair colour. The result is an unreal unattainable perfection leading to obsession and dissatisfaction with our real-life appearance.
- Exacerbates addictive and compulsive behaviour. Research shows social media is more addictive than cigarettes and harder to abstain from than a cocktail. Likes/retweets give a high (stimulating the reward areas of the brain, the amygdala and striatum) with a hit of dopamine. An endless feedback loop is generated where one needs to post more and garner more likes In order to feel as good as they did initially.
- Cyberbullying bullying. Probably the more scrutinised area of social media in recent years and with good reason. With suicides and depression being directly held accountable for this phenomenon teenagers to celebrities are vulnerable to varying degrees of abuse online from anonymous users. Social media has become a stalkers dream.
- Drunk/rash posting. If you haven’t actually done it you’ve more than likely been tempted. Remember being absolutely furious and venting your rage for the world to see? Then regretting it? Too late! Even if you delete swiftly, how many times has your hasty post been screenshot and shared/retweeted? Even worse is the drunk post. Imagine waking up with a hangover and remembering what you’ve written. That’s a whole night, many hours that those words have been out there. Too late! Anxiety and shame from this can be long-lasting, not to mention lasting damage depending on what you’ve said.
- Creates social phobias. The less you practice your social skills the more difficult it becomes, pretty soon you are existing solely behind a device. Social media does a very good job at letting you hide. Phones are giving us an avenue to pretend we are socially comfortable when in reality we are not. We are becoming so used to being able to prepare and carefully think out what we want to say online, the fear and anxiety of saying the wrong thing in real life is exacerbated causing us to withdraw further and spend more and more time without human contact. As well as loneliness depression can also follow.
- Promotes inactivity. It should come as no surprise that looking at your phone or sitting behind your computer for long periods of time can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle.
One of the biggest concerns about social media in relation to our sleep is the blue light effect that smartphone screens give off, which basically tricks your brain into thinking that it’s daytime and keeps you feeling awake when in reality you should be sleeping. Less sleep = tiredness and sluggishness = less physical activity.
I am by no means labelling social media as a bad or evil entity, it’s just that our relationship with it is relatively new. As with all new relationships we are yet to learn how to interact with balance, how to respect and how to cohabit without losing ourselves. With a little knowledge, care and a few tactics our relationship with it can be positive, beneficial and rewarding. But it seems at the moment we will need a bit of help on our way to harmony.
If you have any of the side side effects related such as anxiety, depression, loneliness and self estime issues then maybe we can help. Give us call on 020 891 60684.