Social Media, Loneliness, and Anxiety in Young People

Posted on December 16, 2016

Photo: flickr

Is there a role for social media in perpetuating anxiety through feelings of disconnection and loneliness? At first glance, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter seem to be a modern means of facilitating our connectedness with others, sharing activities and news, and keeping in touch with friends both old and new. But new technologies are usually a mixture of both good and bad, and modern social media are no different.

First, loneliness show a reciprocal relationship with social anxiety. As social anxiety refers to an anxiety problem where a person has excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations. Social anxiety is known to facilitate loneliness; but loneliness also increases social anxiety and feelings of paranoia, and this may signify a cyclical process that is especially active in the young and in our modern times may be mediated by the use of social media.

Loneliness in the young is largely a function of perceived friendship networks. Effectively, feelings of loneliness increase the fewer friends that an individual has. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are the bridge to friendship networks of young people. Thus, whether you perceive yourself to be a successful user of social media is likely to have an impact on feelings of loneliness, anxiety, paranoia, and mental health generally.

The modern phenomenon of social media creates a new dimension to loneliness and anxiety by offering the young person a way of directly quantifying friendships, viewing the friendship networks of others for comparison, and having immediate information on social events. The popularity among your own peers can be compared too and it allows management on adolescent ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) by continually monitoring what’s going on socially. Technology use easily took over traditional social interaction and provide a yardstick for one’s popularity – or more significantly, one’s feelings of loneliness and alienation.

Many studies have once again proven how loneliness, social anxiety and social isolation can cause excessive use of social networking sites in young people. For instance, a study of university students conducted in UK found that real life social interaction was negatively associated with excessive use of Twitter, and loneliness was a significant factor that mediated this relationship, so it’s clear that many people use social networking sites in general to relieve themselves of their loneliness

Not forgetting the use of Facebook which is also associated to social anxiety and the need for social assurance where Facebook use can become an addiction, it has even been compared to activate the same brain areas as addictive drugs such as cocaine. Such addiction poses a threat to physical and psychological well-bring and it cause an impact individuals’ performance at work or school. By staying away from Facebook is described as ‘detoxification’ or an act of ‘self-sacrifice’. So the vicious cycle is that loneliness and social anxiety generate use of social networking sites, but then problematic addiction to these sites itself causes further forms of anxiety and stress.

Facebook have become surrogates for seeking connectedness, and resulting our connections to grow broader but shallower. But our use of social media to chase connectedness may merely make us feel more disconnected and lonelier. For example, feelings of disconnectedness are associated with passive interactions with Facebook, such as using it only to update your own activities or merely scanning the activities of friends. If you log on to Facebook every day like more than half of all Facebook users in the world do, and you use it in this passive way, it will merely reinforce your feelings of disconnectedness.

The use of social media by young people is not just a consequence of their social anxieties, but causes additional anxieties and stresses that are all grist for the modern day anxiety epidemic.

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Category(s):Addictions, Social Anxiety / Phobia, Social Isolation

Source material from Psychology Today

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