Are we checking social media because we feel lonely and anxious?
We check our smartphone screen every six minutes, 10 times an hour, but what is it that motivates us to do it so often? Could it be that every time we check our social media we are dealing with some form of anxiety? And if this is true, how does this anxiety feel and what is causing it?
I want to pay tribute to Johann Hari as his book called “Lost Connections” has inspired this article. He argues that lack of meaningful connection to others leads to anxiety and depression and that social media do not do a good job at making us feel connected.
Let’s think for a moment at the last time we checked social media. Chances are that you are reading this article because it was shared on some social media platform, so you might think of what happened to you shortly before you started reading this article. Something was going on in your body and mind that was slightly unpleasant or dull and made you look for a way to feel better. You had the solution ready under your fingers: Possibly someone has texted me, or someone commented or liked a picture I posted on Instagram or Facebook, or perhaps I have received an interesting email, or maybe I am waiting for someone important to reply to my message.
By checking your smartphone screen with a simple touch, we can instantly disconnect from what is going on around us and immerse ourselves into the world of virtual connection.
If any of the above is on the screen, we feel good. We feel good because that notification is giving us something we crave for and we are not receiving it in the present, real interactions we have. If we are engaged in an interesting conversation, or we are making love, or we are doing something that is meaningful to us, we forget about social media.
When was the last time that the interactions you were having in the present was so satisfying that you forgot about social media?
Human connection is a basic human need as important as food. We can do without it only if we are well nourished, and we all need different amounts of it. Our body tells us, without fail, when we need food by making us feel hungry and it will tell us we need meaningful connections to people my making us feel lonely and, if we do not do anything to connect to others, or if we feel that we cannot connect, we feel anxious or depressed.
Checking social media is a bit like having a tiny amount of food that stops the feeling of hunger, but does not nourish us, and no amount of that will ever make us feel connected to others. If social media is the only way we have available to feel connected, anxiety will arise to signal that we need to do something about our real-life connections.
If you are feeling lonely or anxious, contact a counsellor who can offer you support in a confidential and non-judgemental environment.
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About Alessio Rizzo
Alessio is a UKCP accredited psychotherapist working in Shoreditch (Central London) specialised in anxiety and relationship issues. Alessio integrates CBT, gestalt, and motivational interviewing in his practice. He writes regularly about anxiety and other social issues and is currently running a group for immigrants in London.