Have you ever felt like you are missing out on a lot of things when you hear your friends talk about posts on Facebook, tweets on Twitter and pictures on Instagram? And that the low number of likes and comments on Facebook makes you feel unpopular when compared to the amount of likes your friends get? Or do you feel overwhelmed when you wake up in the morning with messages from fifteen people on WhatsApp?
If any of these (or even all of these) make you feel stressed out, well, you’re not the only one. According to reports by the Pew Research Center, individuals who are active on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc are more prone to categorise themselves as ‘somewhat stressed out’ or ‘very stressed out’ than those who are not. One of the major reasons for this, as mentioned in the report, is the exposure or awareness of stressful events in the lives of loved ones- like family and friends. And Facebook was seen to be providing higher levels of awareness of stressful events in the lives of loved ones.
On the other hand, an individual can also be stressed if he/she sees only happy posts by other people. It makes one wonder as to why other people’s lives are so perfect while their’s is just complicated and messed up. What we don’t realize is that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles display the self as we want others to see, and not as how it really is. How often do you see posts about a demotion, a failed class, or a suspension?
We all like to create a good image of ours on people we meet. Such presentation tactics take a complete different form on the social networking sites. We not only show our positive features and plus points, but we tend to display the image of a complete different individual online, who only happens to look like us. We always want to portray our ideal self to the public, and social media gives us the exact resources to do so. While this is supposed to make us feel better about ourselves, it just adds on the extra stress to maintain our ‘ideal’ image to the public.
Because of the social media, privacy has a new evolved definition. We might fight for our rights for privacy at home, while simultaneously posting who we went out with on Facebook. The obsession for likes and comments on Facebook has reached to the level where the companies try to sell their brands by showing the increase in the number of likes one gets by using their products. I bet Facebook will see a lot less posts and pictures once the ‘dislike’ button is introduced!
Along with the extensive use of these social networking sites comes the involvement of making ‘virtual’ friends. People you’ve never met before, people you know nothing about, and whose claims about being the captain of the college football team or being the president of a club are almost impossible to verify. Sure Facebook does ask us to ‘add people we actually know’, how many of us end up knowing each and every person in our friend list?
Even though we find these social networking sites really entertaining and we might feel that we can’t do without them (because we actually can’t), we should also not ignore the fact that they are turning out to be ad-ons for our already existing stress levels and making it difficult for us to get on with our lives efficiently. But what can we really do about it? We have to find what Barry Schwartz calls the ‘sweet spot’ (believe it or not); the centre line between fun, and addiction/need. It sure sounds like a conundrum, but then again, when did human lives stop being complicated?