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World Wide Stress: How Social Media Contributes Towards Stress and Anxiety

Dr. M. A. Awab Sarwar

2 min read

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The 2.13 billion and 1 billion monthly active Facebook and Instagram users are testament to the fact that social media is fast becoming the communicative medium of choice. Yet a growing number of people worldwide have taken social media far beyond its original purpose, and transformed it into a base standard that defines their lives. The result? A mental health condition known as social media anxiety disorder.

Consult a psychiatrist if you have anxiety disorder or other mental health issues.

A modern-day variant of social anxiety disorder, those suffering from it impulsively check their social accounts every 5-10 minutes.  This compulsive behaviour not only leads to social isolation, but also sets in motion a cycle of anxiety and depression wherein not checking one’s accounts invokes apprehension, anxiety, and depressive feelings; which only amplify with the amount of time spent on social media.

Social Media Addiction and Mental Health Issues:

In addition to medical issues like eye strain, neck and lower back pain, obesity, and heart disease, social media addiction can also deprecate into ADHD, paranoia, and impulsive disorder. However, it is depression, anxiety, and loneliness that have the greatest impact on every aspect of one’s life, and often serve as the base for other mental health disorders.

All Alone In a Big Web World:

Friends play a formative role in developing one’s personality. Most of today’s youth turn to social media platforms as a means of sating their loneliness while evading the trouble and effort required for real-life social interactions. What they don’t know, however, is that this wide network of ‘digital friends’, aka people you barely know, scattered throughout the world only fuels loneliness by gradually stripping them of their personal interaction skills. This induces anxiety and stress, which is then sated with more social media use, and the cycle continues.

Bigger. But Not Better:

Let’s expand upon the relationship between loneliness and digital friend networks. According to the American sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s statement: ‘It’s the quality of your social interactions, not the quantity, that defines loneliness’, having greater social media popularity and large number of friends in one’s digital network adds more to social pressure than it provides social support. That is, the wider the network, the higher the pressure to find and post outwardly impressive things on social media. To reiterate the fact, a study [3] suggests that excess social media usage increases daily cortisol (the stress hormone) production, resulting in chronic stress, early burnout, and depression.

A Digital Drug:

Knowledge of the adverse health effects and resultant guilt doesn’t stop people from craving the addictive ‘high’ of cocaine and other recreational drugs. Same is the case with social media.  What starts as a simple cure for loneliness and social anxiety quickly spirals into an uncontrollable cycle of addiction to positive comments and ‘likes’, and distress when the desired reactions aren’t received. In fact, it has become severe enough to warrant the creation of ‘The Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale’ to medically determine the addiction’s extent.

Fences and Green Grass:

A new job. An overseas trip. Marriage. A child. The constant appearance of ‘happy’ updates by other friends in one’s newsfeed instills feelings of inferiority, dissatisfaction, and self-deprecation, which are further worsened if one knows said friends in real life. Most don’t realize, or choose to ignore the fact that these posts only show part of the others’ lives, and continuously strive to post better updates, or sink deeper into depression.

The Negativity Chain:

Conversely, viewing updates on negative events in the lives of friends on social media can seep into one’s own mind, resulting in a bad day at its best, and fueling pre-existent feelings of depression and anxiety at its worst. The repetitive, viral circulation of natural disasters and negative political events occurring around the globe or in one’s own surroundings illicit similar responses.

Following this discussion, most people may be tempted to swear-off social media for good. However, instead of renouncing social media as the root of all evil, it may be better to understand and follow the actual purpose of these digital platforms, i.e. a means of re-connection, communication, and expanding upon one’s worldview.

Yet, if you recognise addictive patterns in your social media usage, and observe negative changes in your social and/or professional life as a result, do not hesitate to seek professional help.

You can also book an appointment with a top Psychiatrist in Peshawar, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your mental well-being.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. M. A. Awab Sarwar - Author Dr. M. A. Awab Sarwar is among the Best Psychiatrists in Lahore. I am A Psychiatrist with Special Interest In Child Psychiatry Including ADHD, Tics, Childhood Anxiety & Depression, Developmental Disorders and Emotional, conduct & Behavioural Disorders In Children.
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