8 Ways to Beat Social Media Anxiety

It’s been ten minutes since you posted your new profile picture, but you’ve opened and re-opened Facebook at least eight times. How many likes has it gotten? Is this even a good enough photo? Have you been changing your profile picture too much? These thoughts race through your head as you desperately wait for the little red notification that someone has liked your profile picture.

Social media anxiety has become an increasingly common phenomenon among social media users. Medical News Today found in a study that teens with high emotional investment in their social media also reported having issues sleeping, lower self-esteem, plus higher rates of anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, in a study of 7,000 moms by the Today Show, 42% report suffering from “Pinterest stress.” After clicking through thousands of photos of exquisite decorations and delicious recipes, mothers reported not feeling adequate or creative enough for the pins they see.

And unplugging is even harder. The nonprofit Anxiety UK found in a study that 45% of users experience discomfort and worry if their email or Facebook is inaccessible. They felt far better plugged into their social media.

If this sounds like you, here are some tips to manage your social media anxiety and how to stop letting it control you:

1. Remember that people only show their best selves

Are you going to post about a bad or average day on Facebook or post only the best photos from the party you went to last night? Research suggests that social media users often present their “ideal self,” which is the person they want to be or imagine themselves to be instead of their “real self.” Don’t buy into it. We all have bad days. Those happy photos you see every weekend from the same person doesn’t necessarily mean they’re having a better weekend than you—they’re only showing you the best parts.

2. Unfriend/unlike/unfollow

This might sound harsh, but it’s time to stop following those people you haven’t spoken to since high school. Because who really cares? The more people you follow that you truly don’t have a connection to, the more people you will be comparing yourself to. Even if they were your best friend in high school, know that it’s time to move on and following their social media will do you no good. Only follow people you genuinely care about in that given moment of your life. That way you can stay genuinely invested in their lives as opposed to jealous or worried about the lives of others.

3. Don’t use social media at night

The Medical News Today study found that users who use social media more at night struggle the most with sleep quality. Anxiety UK also found that two-thirds of respondents have issues sleeping after using social media. Set a timer at night that after which you are not allowed to use social media. Disconnect at least an hour before you go to bed and instead focus on yourself—read a book, do yoga, journal, or just unwind!

4. Likewise, adjust your morning routine

An IDC Research report found that 80% of 18-44 year olds start the day by checking their smartphones. Before your day has even started, you’re saturating yourself in the lives of others—and maybe even thinking about what your next social media move is. Instead, think of three things you want to do in the morning before you check your social media. This could be brushing your teeth, getting your coffee, going for a quick run or just simply sitting up in bed. Whatever it is, prioritize it over checking your phone.

5. Give yourself time between checking for notifications

Maybe you’ve just posted a funny Tweet or an Instagram photo of your new dog—now stop checking to see if anyone liked it! Set timers on yourself before checking again. Thirty minutes…an hour…two hours. Challenge yourself each time to wait longer and finally build yourself up to checking only a couple times a day each time you post something. The idea is to become more comfortable with posting something and leaving it alone.

6. Pick a day to disconnect

This may seem like a harder one, but allowing yourself a weekly social media cleanse can be good for you! When you’re on social media, you’re putting out a front for other people. Pick a day that you’re only going to serve yourself and shut off your phone and computer. Log out of Facebook because, let’s be real, you haven’t logged out since you were 13. Put your notifications to sleep. And then, get out there for yourself only.

7. Remove social media apps from your phone

Unless you absolutely need them on your phone, just don’t have them—or at least turn off notifications. Watching your phone fill up with notifications while you’re in class or otherwise engaged may increase anxiety about checking now. Furthermore, as your phone is always on you, you may be more likely to be checking your notifications constantly. Disconnecting social media from your phone will help you set specific times that you plan on being on your laptop and can check then.

8. Get a friend involved

If these studies are taken as true, you’re not alone in feeling social media anxiety. It’s okay to reach out to a friend and see if they, too, want to unwind from social media and practice healthier social media engagement habits. Working with another person is a great way to get encouragement and to feel validated in your emotions.

Don’t take it lightly if you’re experiencing depression or anxiety from using social media. Taking care of yourself is more important than the amount of likes you get. And remember, nothing is ever as good as it seems on social media.

Photo Credit: Cover, 1, 2, 3