Ways Social Media Is Probably Causing You Anxiety

September 10, 2019  |  
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social media stresses me out

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Social media can be a very useful tool, but I also understand why many people choose to do regular social media cleanses—or go off of it for good. Think of the reasons we do other cleanses, like juice cleanses: there are toxins presented to us by our environment that just aren’t good for us, and aren’t quite ordinary for the human body to encounter. We have to flush them out from time to time and reset, in order to feel healthy. I would say that social media fits a lot into that description, too. It really isn’t ordinary for us to be able to consume all of the information—exciting, devastating, scandalous, deeply personal, and tantalizing—that we do in a matter of seconds on social media. That rate of information downloading really only began within the last decade or so. Our brains weren’t built for it. Here are ways social media is probably causing you anxiety.

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Witnessing the arguments

Watching the lengthy arguments that can go on in the comment threads of someone’s provocative or polarizing posts can be nerve-wracking. We watch, in real time, how much people can quickly judge, hate, and team up on each other. It’s not normal to overhear or rather over-read someone else’s argument like that.

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Comparing your career progress

Usually, we have to do a lot of digging to compare our career progress to others pursuing the same thing, but that’s not so on social media. In fact, other people doing the exact same thing as you often find you, follow you, and friend you. So you regularly compare your path to those of others.

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Comparing your personal progress

We compare our personal progress to hundreds of people, every day, too. That person is engaged. That person bought a house. That person is getting married. That person is expecting a baby. It can be stressful to assess where we stand in all of that.

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The “memories” feature

Oh goodness. This is a feature that Facebook thought would be fun but I believe mostly causes people pain and panic. You know the feature. You wake up, happy to face the day, and Facebook reminds you that, “This day five years ago, you were on this vacation with this ex boyfriend who wound up cheating on you.” Alright they don’t write it just like that, but you know the truth.

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All of the fundraisers

There are so many causes out there that need your money. Social media is a good place for someone to spread the word about their dog who needs funds for surgery or this community that needs help rebuilding their homes after a hurricane. But that is a lot of suffering to process.

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The whistle blowers

If someone has done something wrong—be it sexual harassment of a coworker or misusing donated funds—it is important that the public know it. But, the complicated and insufferable truth is that, we don’t always get the whole story. We just see people calling someone out for terrible behavior, then we are stuck having to play judge and jury, when we were just trying to have our morning coffee.

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Targeting ads

Facebook ads have you figured out. You just said out loud in your kitchen that you’re low on creamer and will get some on your way to getting your oil changed, now, you sit down to Facebook and see a pop-up ad for a discount on creamer and a local oil change.

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Sweeping judgments

When emotions get the best of people, they will post some rather harsh and sweeping statements on social media. Statements like, “If you are a meat eater you can unfriend me and die right now.” Yikes. That’s a lot to take in. You’re a meat eater and…that’s your neighbor.

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Invite anxiety

Then there are all of the invitations. Invitations to that person’s one-woman play, that friend’s pool party, that person’s yard sale. It feels odd and unnatural to just ignore many of these, but you don’t possibly have time to send a personal response to each one (let alone attend them all.)

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Friend request anxiety

When your friends list gets full, you can’t accept every request that comes your way. But you also can’t remember everyone you’ve met. Is this person who is requesting you somebody you’re supposed to remember? Will you be making a grave mistake if you deny the request? Is it someone with a career opportunity, who needs to be your Facebook friend in order to message you?

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The scam warnings

It’s good that people can spread the word about scams on social media, but it also reminds us what a scary place the world can be. Many of the scams you read about won’t and likely never will target you, but you read about them nonetheless and panic.

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Friends you’ve lost touch with

Then you see posts from people you were once close with. Maybe you weren’t even close but you saw the potential for a good friendship there, and it just faded. That leaves you feeling a bit empty.

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All the self-promotion

Everybody has a blog, a vlog, a podcast, a newsletter, or something they want you to subscribe to/listen/watch/vote for. You don’t possibly have the time to familiarize yourself with the pursuits of all of these individuals, but what happens when you run into them an they ask, “So, did you listen to my podcast?”

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Card-warranting life events

This person had a baby, this person is engaged, this person is celebrating an anniversary. Are you to send congratulations cards to all of them? You’d usually just think of your close friends for things like that but seeing all of these posts begs the question, “Am I supposed to send something?”

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Unreturned DMs

When someone messages you, “How are you?” you know you can’t really respond until you have the time to have a full-on, half-hour catch-up. So you don’t respond now, then you forget, and they feel ignored.

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