Social Anxiety in Social Media!

Social media is a great tool to keep in touch with friends and see what they are up to even when they are not around.  People rely on social media to stay informed with news around the world and their home town, but there are many downfalls to social media too.  Our generation is among one of the firsts that truly let social media take over our lives, and we spend countless hours glued to our phones or laptops trying to stay up to date on everything.  This time spent on the internet reduces times spent with people, and I think it is hurting people’s ability to interact with one another in person.  Not only are we becoming less capable of carrying on a conversation with another person that is not over text, but a lot of people our age get nervous when they have to go out to a social gathering and talk to people.  Because of my own personal experience, especially while trying to meet new people and being thrown into a whole new social setting at college, my hypothesis is that the use of social media is correlated with an increase of social anxiety among teenagers.  People stress over the smallest social encounters, and it did not use to be like this when we were kids.

Many doctors also believe that there are many negative outcomes coming from social media.  According to this clinical report, doctors warn patients of other effects of social media on teenagers like forms of cyber bullying and depression.  Like in the real world, teenagers want to be accepted by peers online, and if they see others getting more likes than them or someone has more followers, they may become depressed.   This report also says that many usual signs of depression are shown by teenagers after spending prolonged periods of time on social media, especially Facebook.  Although this article does not specifically talk about anxiety, a lot of times depression and anxiety come hand in hand, so if social media is causing depression, this could be linked to the increased social anxiety that I have seen in teenagers. 

In this report from 2007, it explains that there is a lot of research supporting the positive correlation between loneliness and problematic internet use, however, the mechanism for this correlation is not as well-known and accepted.  The mechanism requires more research to be done on this topic, which is what this report is about.  This study is done to try to show that social anxiety might connect better with the negative effects of using the internet than loneliness does.  Compared to my original hypothesis, this study is explaining it in terms of reverse causation.  Here, they are explaining that social anxiety causes people to be lonely which causes them to go on the internet and rely on social media more as a form of companionship.  Using the internet to express themselves is easier than talking in person and potentially leaving a bad impression for people with social anxiety, so this does seem to make sense, even though it goes against my hypothesis.  An experiment was performed with 343 undergraduate students and it did show in the end that social anxiety leads to problematic internet use.  Although this study was of a decent size, more studies would have to be done with different ages and cultures in order to come to a general consensus.  This study was also on problematic internet use, not just everyday social media, so this could yield semi-different results than if the test was just done to show social media use, not problematic internet use.

Overall, even if social media is not causing teenagers to have more social anxiety and stress
about being put in social situations, it still has many harmful effects when it is used too much.  As an avid Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram follower, after reading these studies and realizing how much damage social media can be doing to me and my confidence, I think I will try to cut back on my use of social media.  It really is not necessary to be updating yourself every few minutes on what is going on in everyone else’s lives.  The most important thing is your own personal well-being, so turn off the social media and take care of yourself before becoming so consumed in everything else.


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