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Social Media Anxiety

The constant development of online social media features and related services has constantly attracted and increased the number of social media users. But, at the same time, a myriad of users have deviated themselves, temporarily or permanently, from social media use due to social media fatigue. According to Keles, B., McCrae, N., & Grealish, A. (2019). A systematic review: the influence of social media on depression, anxiety and psychological distress in adolescents. International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, 1-15, the use of multiple social media platforms is independently associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety. This data shows that, while many people who use social media a great deal are anxious, when they are not using social media, they turn to social media to reduce this ‘withdrawal’ anxiety and end up with another form of anxiety produced by engaging with their digital platforms.  

The implications for the mental health of this ‘double anxiety whammy’ are clear, and research from the same study even suggests that some people turn to alcohol to reduce their stress levels while they are posting on social media. What is striking about this new study, however, is that it provides longitudinal data to suggest that, over a time course of four years, adolescents who use social media a lot show corresponding increases in their levels of anxiety and depression. It may be that initially anxious people use social media to alleviate their anxiety, and this usage just makes them worse. For more information on this research visit:

Moreover, many other factors could have contributed to the increased anxiety in adolescents who used social media a lot.  As we shall see, for such heavy users, removing access to social media produces anxiety.  We also need to be careful about the type of activity that such screen time represents – as another recent study from “Upward social comparisons and posting under the influence: Investigating social media behaviors of US adults with generalized anxiety disorder. al media screen time”, the latter also appears to have negative effects on the integrity and connectivity of brain structure, when compared to reading traditional printed material. Thus, the anxious individual leaves their digital platform with new anxieties, which may simply make them more susceptible to the negative effects of life stressors in the next inter-digital period, and drive them back to the social media platform in a futile attempt to relieve these anxieties. This, coupled with the effects of withdrawal in very heavy users, can also tend to increase anxiety. 

What are some ways to unplug?

  • Eliminate Gadgets for One Hour Before Sleep and After Wake Up.

  • Turn Off All Your Push Notifications.

  • Keep your phone in a drawer while you're working.

  • Use Only One Device for Checking Social Media.

  • Give Yourself 30 Minutes to Stay Connected.

  • Allot One Hour of Your Day to Respond to E-mails.

  • Don’t use your phone as an alarm.

  • Go into the woods and have a couple days away from the internet.

  • Pick up a new hobby that will keep your hands busy: knitting, reading, dancing to new music. 

  • If you are feeling anxious, put your phone down and take some deep breathes. 

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