Social Anxiety and the Double-Edged Sword of Social Media
For a girl with social anxiety growing up in the age of Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, social media has always been a double-edged sword. Torn between the sites that bring me a sense of calmness and security and the addictive apps that cause me distress, going through short periods of no social media has been a common occurrence.
Sitting in the library on a Monday night, the large building is noticeably empty. Tables students fight over during the day are empty, and the few dedicated people are hard at work to get into the nursing program or finish solving an organic chemistry equation. I, on the other hand, don’t need to be there. With no classes the following day, the majority of my university was at some sort of party or watching “The Bachelor.” I didn’t have any assignments due the next day, or a test I desperately needed to study for. However, I did have invitations. Invitations to go to a party, invitations to watch “The Bachelor,” invitations to do anything besides spending the night surrounded by books. My social anxiety prevented me from accepting any of these offers, and I was content with my decision. Yet when I opened Snapchat and Instagram, I was bombarded with pictures of my friends laughing, having fun, and criticizing Nick’s latest decision on “The Bachelor.”
My anxiety returned, yet this time in a totally different way. Am I missing out? Should I have said yes anyways? Do people think I’m lame for not posting anything? Millions of self-deprecating thoughts ran through my mind, and the myriad Snapchat stories continuously posted fueled my anxiety. This is just one example of the many times my social anxiety has prevented me from opportunities, and social media has been there to dig the knife in deeper.
Though the internet has driven my anxiety further, it has also helped to expose new outlets and communities. Through The Mighty, I’ve been able to find others who struggle with the same issues as I do and read about their own experiences. It has allowed me to accept how my brain functions and realize it’s not something to be scared or ashamed of; I’m only as “different” as I perceive myself to be. The articles and stories I’ve read about the struggles of anxiety have helped me recognize that my condition is real, rational, and can be improved. Social media has allowed me to share my stories with others and to find a home with those whose have similar experiences. The double-edged sword of social media has hurt me and helped me, yet I can’t imagine living a life without the community I’ve found within The Mighty. Without social media and The Mighty, I don’t know where I would be in my battle with anxiety.
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Thinkstock photo by Yakobchuk Olena