Interaction reconceptualized

Social media outlets helpful for those with social anxiety

We all know the articles, “Technology is Ruining Society,” “Why Teens Struggle to Have Face to Face Conversations,” “20 Things I Learned From Quitting Social Media For A Month” and so many more that clutter our social media feeds.

The irony of these arguments being spread through Facebook and YouTube seems to go straight over people’s heads as they comment their agreement and continue to scroll on their phones.

Like with everything, there are two sides to the arguments surrounding social media, namely the extremely positive effect that Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and all the rest have had on the nearly 3.3 million people affected by social anxiety.

This debate is not only facilitated online, but frequently finds its way to classrooms here at SPU, where students are quick to disavow social media because of its time consumption and the way it is changing friendships and relationships.

All these arguments usually take on a negative light and focus on everything that is wrong with social media. While they are generally valid for the average user, they consistently overlook the struggles of those in the corner who do not speak up for themselves but who owe their livelihood to these media platforms.

In these environments it’s hard to find people who willingly and shamelessly admit to their use of social media daily or, more than likely, hourly.

However, for those who struggle with social anxiety and/or depression, social media can be their window to the world through the days or weeks that they can’t seem to get out of bed and interact with people.

For extroverted personalities, being around other people is their way to get energized, but for others, the mere thought of even talking to friends, much less strangers, is a draining and anxiety-riddled ritual that, if botched, can lead to the deterioration and downward spiral of one’s mental health.

While social media does not solve these issues, it certainly helps alleviate the burden of feeling alone, useless and friend-less.

Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are all incredibly useful tools that give the illusion and fulfillment of being around people minus the stress and anxiety that comes with face to face interactions.

These sites also give the chance for friendships to form that wouldn’t naturally due to location or class, and people are able to share pieces of their lives with a wider range of people than they usually are physically able to interact with. They can also be used as lifelines for people to reach out for help when depression sabotages the ability to take care of oneself.

As someone with what seems to be unbeatable and crippling social anxiety, I heavily rely on my phone as a means to stay socially active.

Because of the apps on my phone, I can cultivate relationships from the comfort of my room which then bolster my self esteem and confidence enough to continue those relationships outside of my room. They are also much needed distractions to revitalize my mental health.

Social media apps are not the end-all-be-all for those with anxiety, and many of us do not wish to completely eliminate all human interaction but simply enjoy the comfort of being able to choose when to venture outside into the “real world.”

Technology is a tricky and oftentimes contradictory result of the society we live in.

There are valid points to the argument that social media is negatively affecting our lives, but it is important to always take into account the very real struggles of those who are not like you.

The key is to use social media responsibly, not from the general guidelines of a Cosmopolitan article but from what you know suits you and your needs best.

Mary is a first-year theatre production major.

This article was posted in the section Opinion.

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