Aziz Ansari’s character on the popular NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation has a similar routine to mine and many of my acquaintances. “Everyday, I start by hitting up Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.” Add email to that and he basically described my morning.
Social media has become a vital part of many lives. Thoughts, feelings, achievements and “selfies” are posted up online for all to see. Users crave the response they get from friends and followers. It’s like the modern day version of standing on a soapbox, flailing ones arms and screaming out “look at me, look at me!”
The tweeting, liking and filtering of photos has created a new type of anxiety, one coined Social Media Anxiety (SMAD). Author Julie Spira, who wrote a book on netiquette, outlined the signs of SMAD in a Huffington Post article. They include: constant texting and checking of social media, even in social situations, turning into an anxious mess when people do not receive an immediate response to tweets, and having a smartphone surgically attached to ones hands.
There aren’t many figures, but according to the Telegraph, a study performed last year by Anxiety UK on 298 people at the University of Salford showed that “55 per cent of people felt “worried or uncomfortable” when they could not access their Facebook or email accounts.” A whopping 53 per cent said they saw a change in their behaviour, 51 per cent of them said it was a negative change.
Another common stress is the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). People may experience this feeling when viewing photos on Facebook or Instagram. Users see what other people are experiencing, and feel like they are missing out on social events and interactions.
FOMO is actually something that is being studied. A research team from the University of Rochester, University of California-Los Angeles and University of Essex published their study in July 2013’s issue of Computers in Human Behavior, according to USA Today. The study showed that FOMO was highest in those who are under 30.
It may be funny for some to joke about it, or dismiss the psychological issue. However, with time this problem may become more prominent, especially with teens growing up in a world where social media is the norm.
It leaks into real life situations too, and could possibly hurt relationships with friends and family. A recent study from the United Kingdom, which polled and gathered the reaction of 508 participants, showed that people who post too many “selfies” and who are constantly updating their social media pages actually come off as less likeable, according to the Huffington Post.
Social media feeds into the natural human need to feel a sense of belonging. However, it is important to take a step back and realize something. People post what they want others to see. It’s a controlled reality. That doesn’t mean it has to control you. Computers and phones come with off buttons for a reason, right?