Generalised Anxiety Disorder: Social Media Is a Clear Culprit
Becoming obsessed with social media and online validation can be a recipe for disaster. How much is too much?
In this day and age, no one can claim immunity from anxiety. Blame it on changing lifestyles, growing aspirations or the increasing competitiveness around us, anxiety has a firm grip on us all in some way. But when does it cross the threshold into a disorder?
Excessive worrying about things unseen or things that are unlikely to take place forms the basis of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Feeling tensed all the time – so much so that the worry interferes with your ability to carry out day-to-day tasks – is what distinguishes one as suffering from GAD. It drains you not just mentally, but takes a toll on your physical health as well.
According to a report published in The Times of India, every fifth Indian suffers from an anxiety disorder. So, what causes this GAD? While research to find the exact causes is still underway, it is known to be caused by a combination of factors, which includes genetics and family history. But there is little one can do there. That apart, our conditioning and interactions with the world around us play a huge role in precipitating GAD.
There’s no denying that for most people today, the majority of our interactions take place through social media – that is where GAD stems from.
Self-Consciousness on Steroids
We are all guilty of spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram. What we don’t quite realise, however, is how much the time we spend on these platforms influences us. It often surfaces in the form of the ‘compare-and-despair’ phenomenon.
When you look at pictures of your friend taking that fancy vacation, or your cousin getting married, you are bound to reflect on your own not-so-perfect life. And the grass always seems greener on the other side – you can often end up feeling that you have missed out much of what life has to offer, while your peers are making the most of theirs.
This self-consciousness causes anxiety, which can even take on severe manifestations, like depression, if left unacknowledged.
Feeding Your FOMO
Fear of missing out, or FOMO, can be another trigger for GAD. Not being invited to a party by your ex-colleagues, or missing out on that Goa vacation because you couldn’t get out of work, might lead to never-ending anxiety.
According to a study conducted by non-profit Anxiety UK, 45% of respondents said they feel “worried or uncomfortable” when email and Facebook are inaccessible to them.
This constant need to refresh the Facebook feed or the anxiety attacks caused by not being able to access the internet are clear signs of our addiction to intrusive social media. The need to ‘fit’ in the conventional mould cast by social media is one of the biggest sources of anxiety in young people.
Another study conducted by a research team from the University of Pittsburgh further testifies to this. It says:
The exposure to highly idealised representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, more successful lives.
Chasing the Validation High
All of us have desired those ‘likes’ on a new profile picture on Facebook. We are all guilty of glancing at our notifications over and over to see any new likes or comments as soon as they pop up.
We are impatient for the validation, and fret over being adequately valued and socially accepted by our peers.
In this regard, The University of Pittsburgh research also established that “those who checked their social media most frequently were 2.7 times more likely to be depressed compared to those who checked less often.”
The Elephant’s In the Room
When anxiety gets the better of you, there are ways that you can deal with it. Acknowledging the problem and restricting the time spent on social media are the first steps towards a stress-free life. This would also leave you enough time to reflect on your long-term passions and indulge in activities that are positive and constructive.
As cliched as it sounds, everyone has their own life journey and your struggles and achievements cannot be compared with others’, despite social media goading you into believing otherwise. Besides, what you see isn’t always the truth. Remember, all that glitters is not gold.
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