Everyone’s constantly on tenterhooks, thanks to social media, says Neeti Sarkar of social media anxiety

Psychologist Carl Jung said “Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.” Had he lived in the present day, he might have wanted to add ‘social media’ to that list of addictives!

According to a research conducted by Salford Business School at the University of Salford in UK, popular social networking sites feed anxiety and can make people feel insecure. A survey of hundreds of social network site users found that more than half of them admitted that the sites have changed their behaviour, and half of them said their lives had been altered for the worse. The study also demonstrated the addictive powers of the Internet, with 55 per cent of people saying they felt “worried or uncomfortable” when they could not access their Facebook or email accounts.

Concurring with the findings of this research, collegian Trisha Reynolds says: “Every time I upload a display picture, I get nervous about the number of ‘likes’ my picture is getting. I keep refreshing my Facebook page to check on it.”

Misha Roy, a software professional, says: “I panic when my Internet connection on my phone is lost. It’s quite paralysing and smart phones have a lot to do with our addiction to networking sites.”

The research also states that those who suffered a negative impact from social media said their confidence fell after comparing their own achievements to those of friends online. Two-thirds said they found it hard to relax completely or to sleep after spending time on the sites, while one quarter of them said they had been left facing difficulties in their relationships or workplace after becoming confrontational online.

“I used get intimidated when results were announced and my friends would post their marks on Facebook and now that we’re all looking out for jobs, when one of my friends lands a good job and Tweets about it, it makes me feel rather depressed,” states Yash Kapadia, a management graduate.

To combat the anxiety that comes with addiction, several people have hopped off social networking sites. “My productivity at work dropped drastically and so did my social skills. Now that I’m not preoccupied with Tweeting and updating my status, I have more time to work, interact personally with people, and I don’t end up going to bed late,” says Ashok Raman, a marketing executive.

Too much of anything is bad. Psychologist Shruthi Ahluwalia says: “In a time and age like this, most people are stressed out and are predisposed to anxiety. Anxiety can result from just about anything, including technology. Social networking is addictive and addiction brings with it anxiety. De-addiction on the other hand, brings with it withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, a report like this doesn’t come as a surprise. Nonetheless, with any stressful situation at hand, the body’s defence mechanisms start working.”

The same is true of people who are insecure due to social networking sites and who are supposedly switching off their gadgets of communication every now and then to reduce the tension.

With Facebook, Twitter and other such websites becoming as addictive as other tranquilisers, therapy might be a necessary intervention.

Who knows, we might just all be flocking to Social Networking Anonymous meetings in the near future!