The growing problem of social media anxiety disorder

February 11, 2016

social-media-anxietyWe’ve got a bunch of these friends, all of us do.

You know the ones I mean. They post gorgeous selfies several times a month. Their photo tags for an evening out show only the finest restaurants and hottest bars. Every single achievement of theirs becomes a Facebook post. They humble-brag. They say they aren’t touting their latest whatever, and then they mention it anyway.

After we’ve seen enough of these, we begin to wonder about our own posts–and our own lives.

Social media seems to have created a whole new category of anxiety.

Comparison anxiety

Why didn’t I write that book? Why didn’t I place that article? Why can’t I bench press 150 pounds? Why haven’t I built a house that gorgeous? Why didn’t I speak at that conference?

Friendship anxiety

Why did she unfriend me? Why hasn’t he responded to my friend request? Should I unfriend her because of her political beliefs? Has she unfriended me because of mine?

Looking dumb anxiety

How about “I look dumb because someone pointed out that my post about a zombie child-snatcher is on Snopes as False. Or because I just reposted a celebrity’s death from two years ago because I can never remember who’s dead and who isn’t.”

Selfie anxiety    

Why have only two people “liked” the selfie I’ve posted on Facebook this month, when hers got 129 “likes?” Should I have professional photos taken? 

Missing-out anxiety

So many of my friends go to tons of fun parties, why aren’t I invited to these awesome get-togethers?  Why didn’t I go to that blog conference that all the cool kids went to?  Why didn’t Big Brand Company pick me to blog about their fabulous new Widget?

Is this you?  If it is, STOP already. You don’t need to add social media anxiety to your list of problems. There is no need to envy the cool lives that other lead. Chances are, it’s mostly image-management on their part. I’d bet dollars to donuts their lives aren’t “all that.”

Be confident in who you are and what you do. You are ab-so-lutely cool, just as you are.

Remember the words of the Desiderata, which I first ran across as a teen all those years ago and still stands as some of the best life advice I’ve ever seen: read it carefully, because it’s very true.




Desiderata is Latin for things desired.  Ehrmann was a writer-poet-attorney who wrote this in 1927 as a reminder to himself.

I think it’s a good reminder to all of us and an effective way to keep social media anxiety at bay.

37 comments on “The growing problem of social media anxiety disorder
  1. This is all very true. And I agree with you- it’s such a waste of time. There are so many more important things in life than envying virtual friends.

  2. Gary Mathews says:

    This should be posted in just about every high school and college!

  3. fabulous post!! Instagram is the hardest for me… I want more likes and more and more. But I want to be authentic and true to myself more. It’s a never ending game.

  4. It’s very difficult NOT to compare yourself to others, at least, it is for me. But I find that I’m so much happier, and more content, when I don’t.

  5. Hannah says:

    This is so true! Social media makes it so hard not to constantly compare yourself to others, but it’s so important not to focus on it.

    xx, Hannah

  6. Robin Herman says:

    The phenomenon has even spawned a popular acronym: FOMA (fear of missing out)

  7. Deanna says:

    I think you can waste your time on this type of anxiety no matter where you are. It’s more important to focus on what you have and how beautiful your own life is.

  8. My social media anxiety really only comes out when it comes to running – all of my runner friends post their Runkeeper stats and I get frustrated with myself that I’m not as fast as them. I need to quit worrying about it!

  9. YES!! Maybe because my day job is in marketing that I understand spin. But social media takes spin to another whole level!

  10. Candy says:

    I have all of these, unfortunately.

  11. Lizzi says:

    Such good sense. We only see the highlights of peoples lives, on the whole, and it’s too easy to become lost in wishful thinking and envy whilst missing out on the good which IS present in our own lives.

  12. Love this – it’s so true! We can’t go around being jealous of each others’ virtual lives. The great majority of the time I’m simply happy for my friends, but every once in a while… I’m not the best version of myself. 😉 -Veronica

  13. This is so accurate. We, especially as women, love to compare ourselves to things that are not realistic. I noticed a lot of popular Instagram accounts have been posting unedited posts to show that everything isn’t perfect and love the transparency.

  14. andrea says:

    FIRST time I’m even hearing of social media anxiety disorder – but i would believe it for sure. Probably a LOT of kids (and adults) might be dealing with it and not know it

  15. I think there is definitely something to social media anxiety. I’ve never paid much attention to the “cool group” in real life or online. I tend to kind of go my own way and try to stay drama free. I don’t have a lot of tolerance of patience for that kind of stuff, but I do see it all over the place (as I happily scroll on by). lol

  16. paula schuck says:

    This is so funny! I totally think I know some people who are guilty of the Missing Out Anxiety. That’s comical! They need to get over that.

  17. Carolann says:

    You hit the nail right on the head with this one Carol. I experienced these anxieties too when I first starting using FB. Now, I couldn’t give a rat’s… know how that goes 🙂 It’s a tough battle to fight that’s for sure. I love how you said, you don’t need to add this to your list of problems. Brilliant!

  18. I think this is so true for so many people. Social media has completely changed the world – not necessarily for the better!

  19. Morgan says:

    Interesting article, and so true for some people, I’m sure.

  20. Angie Scheie says:

    Yes to all of it! Although I have those fleeting thoughts from time to time, I am often so thankful that I am not in school during this crazy age. Junior high is hard enough!

  21. Jonathan Key says:

    This is becoming a real problem today. So many people are caught up in comparing themselves to others. Pinterest and Facebook in particular seem to be an issue. Thank you for bringing awareness to this issue!

  22. chrystie says:

    YES! All of these anxieties are real..and I sometimes have them. But more importantly, I worry for my children who will grow up with these insecurities because they will be surrounded my social media their whole lives.

  23. Lesile Rossi says:

    yes i suffer from this occasionally. it’s really sad that it does happen.

  24. Michelle t says:

    I suffer from a lot of anxiety unfortunately but take medication to help relieve it.

  25. Oh well said! After a couple of years of hiding myself away with only the Internet for ‘company’, I decided to get out into the world and mix with real people again. Oh my goodness, what a joy it has been. All that time spent with ‘electronic people’ has made real life so much more inviting and exciting. This is a brilliant post. Should be read by as many young people as possible.

  26. And yes, Desiderata is a brilliant piece to turn to when we need spiritual realignment.

  27. Alana says:

    Social media is now the place where we make ourselves up, dress to the nines (as we used to say years ago) and preen before the world. I try to ignore most of it, knowing that. I’m even considering going on a social media fast. We all have enough drama in our lives, thank you very much, and that is where we should concentrate our energies.

  28. I don’t get caught up in this very often myself, but I worry about it happening to my daughter. Sometimes if she asks me to post a picture, she’ll come back later to ask about the comments. Mostly, I think it’s just curiosity, but I don’t want her self-worth to be tied to likes and comments.

  29. Cyn K says:

    This reminds me of a great post I read this week (that escapes me now) written by someone who only posted positive things on Facebook to hide her depression. She said it was like fake-smiling until she felt like really smiling. To others, it might have appeared that her life was great but she knew she was suffering.

  30. Amy Putkonen says:

    How super cool to find you on a random blog hop! Haha!!! Oh, I can relate. It is a constant practice to remind myself to just be OK with who I am. If I am lucky, I will catch myself doing it. Those are fun moments.

  31. Many truths behind this, Carol. I especially love theDesiderata poem (Posted the poem last year). Thank goodness as we get older, we get off the comparison train!

  32. Leila says:

    Sometimes, you don’t know if a person in social media tells truth about anxiety and depression or she/he is trying to get sympathy from others. I know the feeling when no one cares about you when you feel anxious. Like you are the one person in the world. Sometimes, peer won’t help you enough.

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