📗 Understand

Jun 3, 2024

7 min read

Why Does Social Media Make Me Anxious?

Why Does Social Media Make Me Anxious?

Are social media a part of your anxiety? Let's find out more about the hidden dangers of social media and their impact on mental health! Learn why constant scrolling triggers anxiety and how to reclaim your peace with actionable tips.

It’s hard to imagine a life without social media these days. For many people, their feeds are the first thing they check in the morning and the last thing they see before they go to bed. However, this constant connection can have negative effects on your mental health.

Take Isla, for example, a character in the thought-provoking documentary "The Social Dilemma." Like many teenagers, she lives her life through her social media accounts, constantly sharing, liking, and commenting. But behind her curated feed lies a different story—one of mounting anxiety and self-doubt.

As she spends more time online, her self-worth is dictated by the number of likes and comments. When she gets a hate comment on an edited photo, her self-esteem plummeted. She goes into a vicious cycle of depression and anxiety, desperately seeking validation through her interactions online.

Isla's story illustrates how social media can negatively impact mental health, particularly by contributing to feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem. And her story is not unique.

The science backs it up too. Many studies have found that increased time spent using social media is linked with depression and anxiety. And according to the Digital 2024: Global Overview Report, the average person spends 2 hours and 23 minutes per day on it. That's a significant portion of our day spent consuming content that can make us feel worse about ourselves and our lives.

"[An expert] told me that everyone seemed to suddenly be suffering from anxiety or anxiety-related disorders. When I asked her what she thought caused the change, she answered without hesitation that it probably had something to do with smartphones. The sudden rise in anxiety-related problems coincided with the first incoming classes of students that were raised on smartphones and social media. She noticed that these new students were constantly and frantically processing and sending messages. It seemed clear that the persistent communication was somehow messing with the students’ brain chemistry." — Cal Newport; Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World

While social media has many benefits, from connecting us to our loved ones to entertaining us, it can also negatively impact our well-being. In this article, we'll explore why it makes us anxious and what we can do about it.

| Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse. — Sophocles

Why does social media make me anxious?

Social media anxiety can be defined as the feelings of worry, unease, and stress that come from these platforms. It can manifest in various ways, like feeling restless when not connected, constantly checking your notifications, or worrying about missing out on updates.

Here are some reasons why social media can contribute to anxiety:

🪞 The Comparison Trap

When you scroll through social media, you’re constantly seeing other people’s best moments in their lives. Everyone highlights their accomplishments, vacations, and picture-perfect relationships. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and feel like your life doesn’t measure up, leading to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

👀 Fear of Missing Out

FOMO, or the “fear of missing out,” refers to the anxiety that you're missing out on interesting or exciting events that other people are experiencing.

While this is a normal feeling, it has become increasingly common to feel this way with social media. It makes it easy to see what everyone is up to, but it also makes it easy to feel like you're missing out. This is backed by studies that show a strong link between social media use and FOMO.

FOMO often occurs when you see posts, photos, or updates from friends or influencers who seem to be living exciting, fulfilling lives. It makes us feel like there’s something wrong with our lives and that we’re missing out on something better. But this constant fear of missing out can lead to compulsive checking of social media feeds, triggering feelings of anxiety.

🚨 Information Overload

These days, there’s more information on social media than we can possibly process.

According to the New York Times, the average person consumes 34 gigabytes worth of information in a day. Another separate study cited by the Times found that we consume 174 full newspapers across various sources daily. This is five times higher than in 1986.

This constant barrage of information can be overwhelming and lead to feelings of anxiety. Our brains are not wired to process this much information at once. When we're constantly bombarded with new information, it can be difficult to focus and make sense of it all.

🕟 Excessive Screen Time

In the film "The Social Dilemma," Tristan Harris, an ex-Google design ethicist, reveals a chilling truth: social media platforms are meticulously engineered to capture and hold our attention. Your hours of scrolling are not a mistake — it’s designed to keep you engaged and coming back for more.

Features like notifications, likes, comments and the infinite scroll are very hard to resist. This constant connectivity can make it difficult to unplug and relax, leading to feelings of anxiety and stress. It can also distract us from the things we value in life, making us frustrated with the feeling that we are wasting our time.

Don’t worry, TikTok will always be around

But your

won't wait.

Better Screen Time

Made simple. See by yourself.

⚡️

💜

🔒

⌨️

🌿

🌿

🌙

Don’t worry, TikTok will always be around

But your

won't wait.

Better Screen Time

Made simple. See by yourself.

⚡️

💜

🔒

⌨️

🌿

🌿

🌙

Don’t worry, TikTok will always be around

But your

won't wait.

Better Screen Time

All made simple. See by yourself.

⚡️

💜

🔒

⌨️

🌿

🌿

🌙

Don’t worry, TikTok will always be around

But your

won't wait.

Better Screen Time

All made simple. See by yourself.

What can we do about it?

We have talked about how social media can contribute to anxiety, but what can we do about it?

First, it's important to remember that social media isn’t a full representation of someone's life. It’s like how models are Photoshopped in magazines. The images we see on social platforms are often carefully curated and edited to present an idealized version of reality. People tend to post only the highlights and successes, not the failures or the things they struggle with.

With that in mind, here are some specific tips for reducing social media-induced anxiety:

🧹 Curate Your Feed

Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself or trigger feelings of anxiety. Instead, follow accounts that inspire and uplift you. This could be accounts that share useful information, positive messages, or funny memes.

🪴 Explore Alternative Offline Activities

Whenever we get bored or anxious, a lot of us turn to social media to make us feel better. But we often find ourselves feeling worse after scrolling, and this turns into a vicious cycle. Instead of using your downtime on social media, explore alternative offline activities like practicing mindfulness. One study found that mindfulness exercises, such as breathing meditation, are more effective for relaxing than spending time on social media.

Did you know that Jomo was offering a full widget to help you find healthier alternatives than screen time?

👐 Embrace the Joy of Missing Out

No matter how much we deny it, we only have 24 hours in a day. There will be things that we will miss out on. Instead of feeling regretful about what we’re not doing, embrace the joy of missing out.

We need to realize that FOMO is distracting ourselves from what really matters and that we already have everything we need. Rather than worrying about missing out on the latest celebrity gossip on Twitter, focus on the things that matter to you, like working on a new hobby or spending time with your loved ones.

Embrace the joy that comes from doing the things that matter to you, and the joy of missing out on things that don’t.

📉 Reduce Your Time Spent on Social Media

Research has shown that reducing social media use can help with anxiety and improve your well-being. While social media is designed to steal our time and attention, we can take control and reduce how much time we spend on it.

At Jomo, we don’t believe in digital detoxes. Instead, we believe that the key to digital well-being is balance. Instead of completely banning yourself from social media, use these tips to reduce the amount of time you spend scrolling:

  • Track your time spent on social media. This is the first step to being more mindful with your social media use. When you see how much you’re using it, you’ll be more intentional about how you scroll. In fact, just seeing the facts on how much time you’re spending can affect how you use it.

  • Disable non-essential notifications. Notifications are designed to distract us from whatever we are doing and pull us into the app. But one little check is all that is needed for time to fly by. By disabling notifications that don’t matter, we reduce the temptation to check our feeds and regain control of our time and attention.

  • Delete social media apps from your phone. Let’s face it, your phone is always with you. And when Instagram is one click away, it’s easy to fall into the infinite scroll. Instead of always having access to them, delete the apps from your phone and only access them from your tablet or computer. You don’t have to completely abandon them, but you can use them mindfully by making them less convenient to log in.

Fight Technology with Technology (we can help with that)

You can also use technology to fight. Use your phone’s built-in features (Screen Time on iPhone and Digital Wellbeing on Android) or a tool like Jomo to help you be more mindful with how you spend your time on social media.

At Jomo, we developed the “Conscious Use” method that blocks your social media apps by default. You can only unlock them by asking for a break, which gives you a moment to pause and reflect on whether you really want to use these apps.

Jomo helps you be more intentional with your time and attention by making it less convenient to access social media. Here’s how you can set it up:

1️⃣ Download Jomo.

2️⃣ Go to Rules > Sessions > Templates > Conscious Use.

3️⃣ Select the social media apps you want to block in “Apps & Websites”

4️⃣ Toggle "Breaks" and choose "Intention." This way, you’ll have to write your intention to take a break from your social media block. You can also pick the number of breaks per day and the maximum duration of breaks.

5️⃣ Tap on "Schedule."

This will help you be more mindful of your social media use. If you want to use social media, you can click “Snooze” on the session or open a blocked app and click “Unlock.”

I hope this article can help you take control of your social media habit. Give Jomo and these techniques a try if you are feeling anxious or inadequate when scrolling through social media. Remember, social media is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used for good or ill. It’s all about using it in a way that aligns with your values, rather than detracts from them.