Is Social Media Anxiety Disorder, known as SMAD, the newest affliction resulting from our love affair with Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites? Researchers have stopped short of actually classifying SMAD as a disorder, but it's no doubt a problem.
Sure, you could quit using your social sites altogether — but then you’d be, well, bored and lonely. Science may someday shed more light on social media stress, but in the meantime, we've gathered the most common problems associated with popular social networks so that you know what to watch out for.
Are you one of the thousands of women suffering from Mason Jar Envy, the creeping sense of self-loathing that comes from feeling you're just not as crafty as the other women on Pinterest? The “Today” show recently surveyed 7,000 American mothers and found that 42 percent worry they're not crafty or creative enough. Some stayed up all night pouring through Pinterest photos, unable to stop the negative comparisons.
Thick and thin
Or perhaps you're worried you may have the beginnings of an eating disorder — after all, you do post a lot of food photos on Instagram and Facebook. Dr. Valerie Taylor, the mental health chairwoman for the Canadian Obesity Network, recently said that people who frequently post photos of food suffer from an unhealthy obsession with food — which is "a step away from weight disorders and weight gain."
And looking at photos — of both our friends and ourselves — on Facebook can lead to the opposite problem. Doctors at The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt said such comparisons lead to body-image issues and serious eating disorders. [See also: Feeling Fat? Maybe Facebook Is to Blame]
You may also feel you're just not clever enough to keep up with the witty comments made by your social media peers. With its 140-character limit, it's tough to formulate the perfect sound bite on Twitter. Fall short, and you're faced with silence — no replies, no @ mentions and no retweets.
However, the anxiety-prone may have a far more difficult time on social news site Reddit, where a hypervocal community routinely argues with and belittles users who get a fact wrong or express an opinion that doesn't sit well. But the moderator of subreddit "Offmychest," a forum for those who need to vent — which has more than 50,000 subscribers — has had enough. [See also: How to Use Reddit Without Getting Slammed]
"The basic rule to follow derives from playgrounds across the world: If you don't have anything nice (or constructive) to say, don't say anything at all," the moderator posted. "This means no rude or insulting, nonconstructive comments."
He included an example of an acceptable comment versus one that would be banned. For instance, he suggested commenting, "I think you may want to consider your actions from his wife's point of view," instead of just writing "Whore."
You may encounter bullies on any social media site. You may make negative comparisons of yourself with others. You may find your liking for something — food or cats, for example — turning into an obsession. But the anxiety traps found across social media don't mean you have to quit. Instead, try these tips:
- Step back and consider which sites are most satisfying. You don't have to use them all. For instance, if you like posting to Instagram, your photos will automatically post to Facebook, which means you can continue on Facebook without feeling anxious about your friends' photos or activities.
- If you're anxious about your posts being unfavorably compared to others’, consider limiting your viewers to a close circle of friends on Google+ or Facebook. On Pinterest, you can make private boards to keep the photos to yourself or a few friends. On Instagram, you can set your account to private, which means you must approve followers.
- Feel free to lurk. While lurking sounds somewhat creepy, it doesn't have to be. A lurker is just a name for an Internet observer. You can read all the tweets on Twitter you'd like, as well as any of the thousands of topics on Reddit, without posting yourself.
Everyone feels insecure at times. Take the advice of a socially savvy teen, "You're comparing your worst with everybody else's best."