Social Media: Likes, Connections, and... Anxiety?

Discover how excessive use of social media can trigger anxiety and learn effective strategies to deal with digital anxiety and build a healthy relationship with technology.

Social Media: Likes, Connections, and... Anxiety?

Have you ever noticed how you feel after spending time scrolling through your social media feed? Sometimes, we're entertained by funny videos, interesting news, and photos of idyllic vacations. But at times, that endless scrolling can leave you with a tightness in your chest, a sense of inadequacy, or even an irritable mood.

This occurs because excessive use of social media can trigger anxiety. You know that urge to check your phone every five minutes to see if there's a new notification? Or that feeling that your life isn't as cool as that of the famous blogger? Well, these are some signs that the virtual world may be affecting you more than you realize.

But why do social media cause anxiety?

Social media are designed to keep us engaged. They use complex algorithms to show you exactly what you want to see, prompting you to like, comment, and share. It's like a dopamine machine, rewarding you with small doses of pleasure for each interaction.

The problem is, real life doesn't work like that. Not everyone leads a perfect life full of luxurious trips and trendy restaurants. Comparing your everyday reality to these perfect snapshots of others' lives can make you feel like your life is dull, uninteresting, and that you're missing out on something.

FOMO: The Dread of Being Left Out

Have you ever heard of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)? This term defines the anxiety generated by the sensation of missing out on something important happening in others' lives.

Social media is fertile ground for FOMO. The flood of photos from lively parties, eventful weekends, and professional achievements can make you feel like you're falling behind.

The social pressure of digital perfection

In addition to FOMO, social media also creates a social pressure for perfection. Filters that smooth the skin, edits that enhance beauty, and carefully rehearsed poses construct an unreal reality.

Seeing these images constantly can lead you to compare yourself and feel inadequate. You may begin to question yourself: “Why isn't my life like this?” or “Am I ugly?”

Anxiety and cognitive distortion

All this flood of information and comparisons on social media can lead you to develop cognitive distortions. These are irrational thought patterns that distort reality and contribute to anxiety.

Some examples of common cognitive distortions on social media:

“If nobody liked my photo, it means nobody likes me.”

If I don't reach that number of followers, I'll be a failure.

Disqualifying the positive
“That trip only seems cool because she has a professional camera.”

Anxiety and insomnia: A dangerous relationship

The anxiety generated by excessive use of social media can also affect your sleep. Scrolling through the feed late at night stimulates the brain and makes it difficult to relax.

Lack of restful sleep intensifies the feeling of anxiety the next day, creating a vicious cycle. You become anxious, sleep poorly, wake up tired and anxious again, and so on.

Social media and real life: Strained relationships

Excessive time spent on social media can harm your face-to-face interpersonal relationships. Being glued to your phone during a dinner with friends or a family outing shows disinterest and lack of connection with the people around you.

Furthermore, the anxiety generated by virtual comparisons can make you more withdrawn and insecure in face-to-face social interactions.

Are you ensnared by social media?

Acknowledging that social media use is causing you anxiety is the first step toward change. See if you identify with some of these signs:

Do you feel irritation or anxiety when away from your phone?
The sensation of emptiness or discomfort in the absence of your phone may indicate digital dependency.

Do you compulsively check your phone for new notifications?
The constant need to stay updated with the latest likes, comments, and messages may be a symptom of addiction.

Do you prefer interacting with people virtually rather than in person?
Shyness or disinterest in face-to-face social interactions may result from excessive use of social media.

Do you find yourself comparing to people you see on social media?
Comparing yourself to others' seemingly perfect lives can generate feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

If you identified with some of these signs, don't worry! You're not alone. Social media addiction is an increasingly common problem, but there are measures you can take to regain control of your life and cultivate a healthier relationship with technology.

How to deal with anxiety caused by social media?

If you've noticed that social media use is making you anxious, don't despair! There are some strategies that can help you regain control:

Take a digital detox
Try spending some time offline. Turn off notifications, leave your phone in another room, and set aside time for activities that bring you peace and well-being, such as reading a book, meditating, or enjoying nature.

Be selective about who you follow
Evaluate the people and profiles you follow on social media. Unfollow accounts that make you feel insecure, envious, or that don't add anything positive to your life.

Focus on real connections
Invest in face-to-face relationships. Schedule meetings with friends and family, participate in social activities, and have eye-to-eye conversations with people.

Practice gratitude
Take time every day to reflect on the good things in your life. Be thankful for the people who love you, the experiences you've had, and the little joys of everyday life.

Take care of your sleep
Establish a regular sleep routine. Avoid scrolling through your phone before bedtime and create a relaxing environment in your bedroom.

Seek professional help
If anxiety caused by social media is significantly impacting your life, don't hesitate to seek help from a psychologist. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be a great ally in treating anxiety.

In addition to digital detox: Building a healthy relationship with social media

Social media can be valuable tools for entertainment, connection, and information. The secret lies in finding balance and using them consciously. Here are some tips:

Set boundaries
Establish specific times for checking social media and stick to them.

Use time management apps
There are applications that help you monitor the time spent on social media and alert you when you exceed the set limit.

Post with mindfulness
Before posting something, reflect on whether it truly represents you and adds something positive to your life and the lives of your followers.

Value quality over quantity
Follow only a few profiles that truly inspire you and uplift you.

Remember: Real life is offline
Social media only show snippets of people's lives. Don't compare yourself to those perfect moments and focus on fully living your own journey.

Excessive use of social media can trigger anxiety. Constant comparison to others' seemingly perfect lives, fear of missing out, and social pressure for digital perfection are some of the factors contributing to this issue.

It's important to pay attention to signs of anxiety and take steps to reduce time spent on social media and cultivate healthy relationships in the real world. With balance and mindfulness, it's possible to enjoy the benefits of social media without letting them affect your mental health.


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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it normal to feel anxiety occasionally while using social media?
Yes, it's normal to experience a twinge of anxiety now and then when browsing social media. The issue arises when this anxiety becomes frequent and starts to interfere with your daily life.

2. How do I know if I need professional help to deal with anxiety caused by social media?
If anxiety prevents you from performing your routine activities, keeps you constantly awake, or significantly affects your relationships, it's recommended to seek help from a psychologist.

3. What are the benefits of reducing the time spent on social media?
In addition to reducing anxiety, cutting down on social media usage can help you:

  • Improve the quality of your sleep
  • Increase your productivity
  • Strengthen your real-life relationships
  • Have more time for activities that bring you pleasure and well-being

4. What apps can I use to control the time spent on social media?
There are several time management apps available for smartphones, such as “Digital Wellbeing” (Android) and “Screen Time” (iOS).

5. How can I disconnect from social media without feeling excluded?
You can inform your close friends that you're taking a digital detox and will be offline for a while.

Leonardo Tavares

Leonardo Tavares

Follow me for more news and access to exclusive publications: I'm on X, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Spotify and YouTube.

Leonardo Tavares

Leonardo Tavares

Follow me for more news and access to exclusive publications: I'm on X, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Spotify and YouTube.

Books by Leonardo Tavares

A Little About Me

Author of remarkable self-help works, including the books “Anxiety, Inc.”, “Burnout Survivor”, “Confronting the Abyss of Depression”, “Discovering the Love of Your Life”, “Healing the Codependency”, “Rising Stronger”, “Surviving Grief” and “What is My Purpose?”.

© 2024 Mental Health, by Leonardo Tavares.
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© 2024 Mental Health, by Leonardo Tavares.
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