Social Media Anxiety; Why It’s Okay to Put Down Your Phone

by Farzana Rahman

Photo by William Iven


The Dark Days (aka Pre-Social Media)

We grew up in the dark days; when we actually did Ask Jeeves, when having a dial-up Internet connection was fancy and MSN instant messenger was the ONLY way to communicate.  Rudeg¥aL$flexincr0yd^N, I know who you are. 

The dark days where we imagine a young Mark Zuckerberg would have to cut short his IM chat when his mum needed to use the phone.  Where Elon Musk would clip a pager to his belt, frantically searching for a payphone when if it beeped.

Of course, being a teenager is completely different today.  Life does look better through a Snapchat filter, but when did it become normal to morph your face with a bunny?

But it’s not just teenagers dressing up with cat ears.

Our friends upload beautifully filtered holiday snaps to Instagram. Bosses share their sometimes questionable ‘gems’ on Twitter and parents adopt a policy of gratuitous emoji use on Facebook.


Social Media and Our Mental Health

Talking about the potential negative effects of social media on well-being is not revolutionary.

Most articles about mental health and wellness acknowledge that our addiction to social media could be having a detrimental effect on our mental health. But are we suffering from a ‘them versus us’ mentality ?  Namely, are we incorrectly assuming that the negative effects of social media affect other people, not us?


Is Social Media Making you Anxious ?


Photo by Cassidy kelly


Nearly 20% of people with social media accounts cannot go more than three hours without checking them, they begin to feel anxious and have the need to log on. There are also the feelings of inadequacy and loneliness that can come after being bombarded with the seemingly perfect lives of others.

Here are common ways that social media related anxiety can manifest:

-       Unsuccessfully trying to stop or reduce your use of social media

-       Feeling stressed if you can’t check your phone

-       Feeling that everyone else is having more fun than you

-       Interrupting conversations to check your social media accounts


It’s Okay not to be Busy

This type of social media related anxiety and stress is more pronounced at weekends and on holidays. As we head towards the end of the week, our phones and feeds pick up pace. We become bombarded with updates and images of other peoples’ upcoming plans. Subtle reminders of just how busy everyone else are. 

A 2017 study found that “a busy person was viewed to have more status, because they were perceived as more competent and ambitious, as well as to be more scarce and in demand.”

This is probably the root of why social media can make us feel low or worry. The feeling that maybe we’re not as popular or fun as our friends. A sneaking sense of self-doubt when we feel our diary is looking sparse and imagine how packed everyone else’s is.

What Can We Do?

Let’s take a moment to just stop. Here are some tips to remember:

·      It’s okay if your weekends aren’t packed with Instagrammable moments. It’s completely normal to have some weekends where you clean the house, do your laundry and think about cleaning your fridge.

·      Try to be aware of the present moment.  Bring attention to your breath or whatever activity you happen to be doing.

·      It’s okay if you have an impulse to check your phone. See if you can gently reduce this without beating yourself up if you can’t do it all at once.

·      Be mindful of the pressure we all put on ourselves and how this can negatively impact a sense of well-being. Try to recognize your self-critic and understand that you have the choice not to listen.

Most importantly, think about the week just gone and congratulate yourself on getting this far.