How stress and anxiety shape our online personas
I posted on social media how grateful I was that so many people reached out to wish me a Happy Birthday since my son ignored me. I’m so glad I did! One reply: “Your courage to share is inspiring and encouraging to me. I acknowledge your wisdom to let your son be and focus on the many who love and support you."
This is exactly why I shared that post. The pressures of keeping up with the “highlight reels” on social media are driving our stress and anxiety levels through the roof – especially with our children and young adults. I want to inspire and give others permission to share their hurts as well as their highs.
I specialize in helping people overcome anxiety, and yet I would be doing a disservice if I just held myself up as someone who doesn’t experience the lows as well as the highs in life. Experiencing stress, anxiety, loss, grief and more are all part of the human condition. I think we all can agree that we cannot control what goes on around us. However, we can choose whether we react or respond.
My son ignoring me hurt me very deeply and gave me the opportunity to curl up in the corner crying or to acknowledge the hurt I was feeling and then choose to respond. (We ended up going to see “Green Book” and laughing – a lot!)
Our children and young adults have been raised in an environment where mainstream and social media highlight “perfect people”, setting impossible standards to try to meet. In a recent Thrive Global podcast, Katie Couric recently shared, “We have to figure out how we can use social media to foster community, instead of just to make people feel anxious and uncertain and bad about themselves.”
We can start by modeling it for them, as I did. According to Couric, “Anxiety has surpassed depression in this country” and “The suicide rate among young girls has tripled, I believe, between 10 and 14. And you have to imagine that social media is a big factor.” The Kardashians, and others like them, are only showing their “highlights” after a whole team has spent hours perfecting their hair, makeup and wardrobe. How can young girls feel ok about themselves when it’s impossible for them to measure up?!
The stress and anxiety of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”
This was fueled even more in an episode where Kim and Kendall shared about their anxiety. Unfortunately, by the end of the episode, it appeared that everything was great again and all it took was one therapy session! I’m sure this added even more stress and anxiety to young viewers who struggle on a daily basis. Many feel compelled to take many multiple selfies to find the “perfect” one that will get them the most likes and comments.
Conversely, I love that “This is Us” is keeping it real and honestly portraying struggling with anxiety and depression. Watching Randall experience a panic attack and struggle with anxiety, Kate's struggle with food, Kevin's struggle with addiction and Toby's struggle with depression gives us a look at real life, not just the "highlight" reel. It gives us permission to acknowledge our struggles and worries and not have to live up to unrealistic expectations of "being cured" in one session.
How do we start to turn down the pressure of “perfection” on social media? It’s a huge problem and may seem overwhelming. Many times, when we feel overwhelmed, we shut down. The best way to overcome that is to chunk it down to the smallest, easiest next step.
My contribution was acknowledging, openly and honestly, about a very personal hurt. I want to inspire and give others permission to do the same. Perhaps if if we collectively do this more and more, we can foster the sense of community that Ms. Couric mentioned. Are you willing to begin sharing your “real” life on social media instead of your “reel” life?
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