Tips for Using Facebook When You Have Social Anxiety Disorder

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Facebook anxiety is a modern-day affliction and a reflection of anxiety that you feel in daily life. Interacting on Facebook carries with it many of the same fears and insecurities that you probably feel in real life. The difference is that when you are alone in front of your computer, there is ample time to start obsessing and spending too much time worrying about what other people think. In this way, Facebook can magnify some of the fears you already experience.

This can have debilitating consequences for those with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Fortunately, there are ways to use Facebook that will help to minimize your anxiety. The key is to avoid some of the "traps" of social media that are inherent in using the internet for social connection.

10 Things to Avoid When Using Facebook If You Have SAD

If you want to get a handle on your Facebook anxiety, stop doing the following things:

Obsessing About Your Posts

Sure it might be hard. Perhaps you sit there for 30 minutes thinking of the best way to word your status update. Posting on Facebook is a lot like making conversation; if you suffer from SAD you tend to over-think everything that you say.

The best rule of thumb is to...

spend no more than a minute or two writing your post.

If it is taking longer, force yourself to leave the site without posting so that you don't start obsessing.

Thinking Everyone Else Is Having More Fun Than You

When you look at your friend feed, it might seem like everyone else is having a whole lot more fun than you. Remember that just like you, most of your friends probably want to appear in a positive light on Facebook.

They are more likely to post about

  • the fun things that they are doing
  • and how great their lives are going.

Try not to make comparisons, because you are only seeing a filtered version of their lives.

Thinking Everyone Else Has More Friends Than You

Do you look to see how many friends other people have?

Do you feel bad about your lack of friends?

Again, this is a matter of perception. Some people send friend requests to every person they have ever met; that doesn't mean that those are people they know very well in everyday life.

Stop worrying about how many friends you have and care more about the quality of those friendships.

Deactivating and Reactivating Your Account

If you are caught in a vicious cycle of deactivating and reactivating your account every time you feel bad or down about Facebook it is time to stop.

Make a decision one way or the other about whether you want to participate.

If you decide to give it up, don't just deactivate your account; permanently delete it. Make sure you are certain about your decision and then stick to it.

Worrying About How You Look in Photographs

On Facebook, you can only control the photographs you post of yourself. Even if you don't have a Facebook account, it is possible that someone has posted photographs of you on the social networking site. 

If genuinely unflattering photographs are posted of you and also tagged, you can remove those tags so that people who search will not find you by name. 

In general, however, remember that everyone takes a bad picture from time to time. Those who know you in real life know what you really look like!

In a 2015 study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking showed that social anxiety was associated with problematic use of Facebook, but only for people who showed medium to high levels of needing social assurance. This suggests that needing the approval of others and being socially anxious may contribute to overuse of Facebook. 

Similarly, a 2016 study published in the journal Transient Issues in Psychological Science also showed that need for approval and excessive use of Facebook contributed to higher levels of anxiety among extraverts. While many individuals with social anxiety are introverts, some are also extraverts. This research suggests that need for approval is a critical factor when it comes to the impact of Facebook.

If you find that you are constantly worried about what other people think of your posts, photographs, etc., consider working on building your self-esteem so that other's opinions don't play such a large role in how you feel about yourself. You may find that your use of Facebook decreases as you worry less what other people think.

Thinking You Have to Accept All Friend Requests

Did you get a friend request from

  • someone you don't know
  • someone you barely know
  • or someone you don't care to know?

You aren't obligated to accept all friend requests that you receive.

If you wish to keep your friend circle small and private that is your choice. Don't feel bad about ignoring friend requests or even unfriending people after the fact. Unless it is someone you know well and have a relationship with, no explanation is required.

Spending Too Much Time on the Platform

Do you end up spending more time on the social networking site than you originally planned? If so, trying setting a daily time limit for browsing and posting; perhaps 5 to 10 minutes in the morning and evening.

Stalking Other People

Only you know why you are stalking someone. Whether it is an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, someone you went to school with long ago, or someone who wronged you, stalking is a non-productive activity. Stalking someone's page might make you feel good in the short term (you get a little "hit" when they post a picture or status update) but in the long run it is an addictive behavior and a time-waster.

Instead, focus your time and effort getting to know your friends better. Pick up hints from their posts about what they like, and then ask them about those topics when you get together in person.

Having a Public Page

If you are truly concerned about the privacy of your information on the Internet, change your account settings so that your profile cannot be viewed by the general public.

Doing so ensures that you are only sharing with your circle of friends; knowing this should make it easier to be more candid as well.

Never Going Outside

Facebook is best used as a tool for building offline friendships. Instead of spending time interacting with your friends online, use Facebook to set up in-person activities that will help to build your social confidence. Use Facebook as a tool to make connecting in person easier and your time will be well spent.

Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares effective ways to reduce screen time.

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A Word From Verywell

Using Facebook excessively may lower your physical and psychological well-being. If you find yourself unable to reduce the time you spend on Facebook, or that use of the social media platform is negatively affecting your mood, level of anxiety, or quality of life, consider speaking to a friend, family member, or your doctor about strategies that you can use to help control its impact on your life.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."