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Using Social Media When You Have Social Anxiety

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We are living in the age of technology. Everything seems to be done on computers, phones or iPads — even socializing. Everyone these days seems to have some form of social media account; even my Nana is on Facebook! But what happens if you also have social anxiety? Even sitting in a room by myself, I can get anxious just looking at Facebook on my computer screen. It’s like the modern-day version of social anxiety.

I become anxious about sharing posts or pictures I find interesting or funny because I’m worried about other people’s reactions. I’m scared I’m going to annoy everyone by posting things, or they’ll call me out for attention-seeking, which is not the case. The only exception to this is personal photos. I always put these up for family to see as they don’t live close, and I think it’s nice for them to be able to see these.

What’s funny about this is I read everyone else’s posts without a second thought. I read all the jokes, look at all the funny pictures and watch all the silly cat videos. If it’s not something I’m interested in, I simply scroll past. I don’t find it annoying at all. Yet I still believe this is what people will think of my posts.

I definitely overthink whether or not I should share something. Sometimes I can be looking at something for quite some time, debating if it’s worth putting up. Sometimes when I do decide to share something, I change my mind a few minutes later and delete it hoping no one saw that embarrassing thing I posted.

The same goes for comments. Sometimes I have something to say and want to comment but can’t bring myself to do it, or I do comment and then quickly change my mind and delete it. The problem with this is the other person gets a notification and clicks on it to find nothing there. Sometimes I get asked what I commented because they can’t see it, and I brush it off as a Facebook glitch.

It’s even worse when I tag someone in a post. If I want someone in particular to see something I think they may appreciate, I tend to send it in a private message so no one else can see. Even then sometimes I regret it, because there is no taking it back once it’s in a private message.

I’m not a member of all the different social media platforms, only Facebook. That’s partly due to the fact that I’m technologically illiterate and have trouble figuring out some of these things, but mostly it’s because it would just add another form of stress to my day. Dealing with Facebook is enough.

Some general tips I’ve found helpful to navigate social media when you have social anxiety are:

1. Keep your “friends” list to a minimum. Keep only people you know and like. Don’t feel pressured to add someone who you haven’t spoken to in 10 years just because you went to high school together, or your partner’s auntie’s cousin’s nephew. Just because you are distantly related doesn’t mean you have to be Facebook friends. The people on my “friends” list are the people I know and have met in person and actually like!

2. If someone is constantly posting things that make you anxious and you can’t or don’t want to delete them as a friend, then unfollow them. You remain friends but don’t have to see everything in your newsfeed.

3. Don’t read comments on pictures or news articles. There are a lot of trolls out there. Don’t let their ignorance bring you down. Ignore the comments and carry on.

4. Keep your social media accounts to a minimum. You don’t have to be part of everything. Use what works for you (in my case Facebook) and ignore the rest.

A version of this post originally appeared on The Nut Factory.

Originally published: October 6, 2016
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