I have “Social Media Anxiety.”
I asked my therapist if this thing I made up in my head is actually real. Surprisingly, she said it’s close to a form of social anxiety. I don’t have social anxiety, at least in my head, yet the one thing that fascinates me is the one thing I dread. I don’t become anxious around people when speaking, and I actually enjoy talking. I’m a shy extrovert who overthinks.
Social media would sound like a dream to me. I don’t have to cope with the body language and tone factors that go into socializing in real life. Instead, I could easily hide behind an icon, not-so anonymous username, and talk to people from each and every continent. Yet.
Yes, there is a yet.
I have maybe a million questions and thoughts about what would happen if I posted something…
Cancel culture, public shaming, and roasting online exists. Do you remember that movie, Cyberbully? What about getting an accidental fandom who will not understand your boundaries? What about getting a real-life fandom/stan Twitter to ruin your life over an opinion?
What about having low engagement? Am I too weird? What will everyone think of what I posted? Why didn’t I spellcheck before I tweeted? What if your chaotic, ranting post goes viral? No one likes my photo; great I knew I was hideous. Now, the people who follow me will now make fun of me! No one will understand this post. I used too many hashtags, I look so desperate.
I need to get over this.
Social media anxiety is one of those weird things that I can’t find anything about. Most articles I find on Google relate it to people missing their phones and this extreme need to check their phone after two minutes. I found only one YouTube video that describes somewhat I deal with.
But in this article, I’m going to try in this article to explain my social media anxiety.
You’re a Mass Communication major! How can you be anxious about social media?
I know. I’m a walking oxymoron.
Social media allows people to create careers, start businesses, inspire people, and get connected with others across the world. Then, social media can cause people to lose their jobs, continue societal beauty standards, and is home to cyberbullying. It can entertain us, but also can be addicting just like a drug.
However, social media is not going anywhere. Majoring in Mass Communication was a strategic move to me. Sure, the job outlook isn’t as stable or pays as high as others. But we will always need communications, and I have many options. The work can range from traditional communications, going into marketing, and making memes while getting paid. For two years, I dreamed of making memes for a television show or interacting with fans through a brand. Conversely, for my own social media accounts, I can’t imagine posting anything.
The perfectionism jumps out. Social media is amazing. I like it, but it is causing this huge amount of pressure for me. For example, many internships and jobs I apply for ask for my social media handles. My Instagram is my least active account. I want one of those pretty, stunning themes, but…
The Cycle of Self-Doubt and Negative Talk
Will my followers think I’m being too much?
Will I look fake?
Who the hell do I think I am to post this?
Really?! Posting a picture of book isn’t going to be interesting!
Why didn’t you pose right for that one photo with your friends?
It also takes forever to post anything. I have an idea. Then, I plan for it and find inspiration on Pinterest. Next, I actually make a semi-mock up of what posts I want to post. Finally, the day comes to take the photo and… I end up quitting after an hour or two of taking photos due to negative self-talk. It’s a cycle of not posting.
Obviously, there is the pressure to prove to job recruiters that you can build a brand from the ground up. Most people I meet in my major have perfect Instagram accounts, solid YouTube channels, or a decent engagement rate on Twitter. Meanwhile, I hide my social media from my peers due to my eclectic personality. Barely anyone knows that I gained one million impressions a month and 35k followers on Pinterest.
I’m not photogenic, so Instagram is not my best option. Twitter is too negative and chaotic. Tik-Tok gives me weird vibes; too many problems.
Update: 2021: TikTok is actually fun and there are cute little TikTok communities similar to peak Tumblr. Surprisingly, my social media anxiety doesn’t happen when I post there.
My Definition of Social Media Anxiety
OBVIOUSLY, this is not a medical or psychological official definition. This my personal experience and what I use to describe my personal issue.
Social media anxiety is the fear of posting online with negative self-perceived thoughts of what might occur, such as cyberbullying, a lack of social likes, and sudden rejection by followers, causing someone not to post at all.
Basically, it sounds like a form of social anxiety. I want this issue or theme to be talked about more. But due to the ever-changing environment that social media has, it’s hard for pyschologists to define it.
Eventually hours and hours of researching this topic correlating social media and social anxiety, I concluded that it’s just social anxiety but in the virtual world. I would like a name to be placed on social media anxiety instead of taking up space for true cases of social anxiety.
Furthermore, there should be divide between
- Social anxiety
- Social media anxiety
- Anxiety due to FOMO (Fear of missing out)
Social media has created more effect on our well being that we realize. We look at friendships differently, hold people to different, maybe even weaker, expectations, and finally, the constant comparison between people’s highlight reel to our everyday lives. Yes, we must also have accountability for our actions and thoughts, but we need to address the correlation between social media and mental health.
We should be able to enjoy social media without anxiety at all. It is a free world that has so many benefits. I want to one day engage more actively online. Hopefully, in the future, there is mental counseling toward social media anxiety.