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How does social media impact kids with social anxiety disorder?

By Mansi Jain,

For children struggling with social anxiety, social media can have many positive and negative impacts.

The way we interact with people has evolved massively, thanks to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram among others. Though these platforms come with many advantages, there are many pitfalls of over usage of social media, especially for youngsters. One of them is social anxiety disorder (SAD).  

What is social anxiety? 
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a mental health issue that involves a dread of social situations including performing or speaking in front of others for fear of being negatively judged. It's common for many people to experience nervousness when facing certain social situations. People with SAD are extremely self-conscious and worry about what people think to the point that they often experience physical symptoms like rapid heart rate, sweating, blushing, nausea, shaking, and light-headedness. 

Social media and SAD: What’s the link? 
Whether or not social media is beneficial for people with social anxiety is a complex question. The answer depends on many factors, including how people use those channels  
of communication, what role they play in people’s lives, and their tendency towards addiction. 

One of the main reasons why texting and other forms of social media are preferable, especially in the case of those struggling with social anxiety, is that the awkward nature of  
a conversation in-person is replaced with the quickly sent text. It can be edited and manipulated before it is sent, thus allowing more control over the interaction. This is not possible in real-time social situations. Moreover, platforms that allow for anonymous "blogging" may allow those with social anxiety to feel less alone and look at their situation in a more light-hearted way. 

In an online environment, some ruminate about how many likes their posts receive compared to others, about how quickly or slowly people respond to their messages, or whether they get a response at all. Social media and internet use, combined with motivation to avoid real-time interactions, is associated with higher social anxiety. The constant bombardment of everything going “right” in other people’s lives have a negative impact on many, especially with SAD. People with this condition who find social media helpful may grow overly dependent on online platforms to replace real time communication. 

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