The Anxiety of Facebook
The impact of social media on society has prompted researchers to investigate whether its effect is positive or negative. The findings are mixed, showing both benefits and downsides to the use of social media sites. One area of focus in these studies is the effect of social media on mental health.
Recent research has shown that using social networking sites, namely Facebook, can increase people’s stress levels, produce anxiety and negatively affect a person’s sense of self. Using these sites might even cause a person to develop a mental health disorder or exacerbate an existing one. Social media even has the power to quickly spread moods around the world.
Social media sites provide places where people can create the face they want the world to see. Creating a profile allows a person to decide exactly what image to present to others. For some people, this can lead to a near-obsession. This could reflect a person’s self-esteem, according to one study.
This study looked into the association between a person’s self-esteem and how much time he or she spent on maintaining his or her profile, specifically what actions they performed to create their online persona. Those with lower self-esteem cared more about what others had posted about them on Facebook and were more likely to remove certain posts to ensure their profile remained a reflection of the image they wanted to portray. They might even scour Facebook and other networking sites to ensure that there are no negative remarks or unflattering photos. Conversely, those with high self-esteem spend time creating their own profile, adding pictures and information about themselves to show the world their ultimate persona.
Another study showed that Facebook increases people’s anxiety levels by making them feel inadequate and generating excess worry and stress. Social media provides constant updates. This motivates many people to continually check their status and newsfeed on mobile devices. Some people feel a constant impulse to check for updates, only feeling relief when they turn off the mobile device. In this study, over half of the respondents felt uneasy when they were unable to access their social media and email accounts.
Additionally, two-thirds had difficulty sleeping due to anxiety and other negative emotions after they had used the sites. The constant updates also led many respondents to frequently compare themselves to others, leading to feelings of inadequacy. This anxiety and worry creates chronic stress that could lead to health problems, including mental health issues.
Facebook also can increase the amount of social anxiety a person has upon meeting someone for the first time, according to another recent study. Prior to this study, experts hypothesized that for those with social anxiety, looking at a person’s Facebook or other social media profile prior to meeting could help alleviate some of their feelings of nervousness. Reviewing someone’s social media profile is a way to get to know someone prior to meeting them. Other studies have shown that people with social anxiety prefer communicating with people via the Internet rather than in person, so it would seem as though it would be an ideal way to initiate relationships.