Social anxiety common in technologically dependent teens

Online interactions do not have the same capacity to help social development the way in-person connections do. While phones and computers were initially banned in the classroom, their inevitable presence shines a light on social anxiety in classrooms.

An increasing number of teenagers experience this fear of being scrutinized by others in social settings because they’ve grown up constantly tethered to a phone.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, an estimated 15 million American adults have social anxiety disorder. The typical age of onset is 13, and only 36 percent of people with social anxiety disorder report symptoms for 10 or more years before they seek help.

The memes and commentary that teens post on Twitter and Tumblr reflect their overall anxiety toward socializing outside their minuscule comfort zones. They stay confined to their rooms when guests or family are over. They struggle to order their own food or drinks at the cashier.

Don’t even think about expecting a call from these teens; they’re reachable strictly through text. They’re also the kids you’ll rarely hear from in the classroom.

Ironically, these kids would be lost without their phones and access to social media. With a built-up following in the digital world, these teenagers are neglecting personal contact with the real world. Teens don’t realize they are hindering their own social development.

Social anxiety disorder goes beyond mere shyness. This disorder can affect academic performance and self-esteem, and many people with social anxiety have a concurrent disorder like depression, according to The Atlantic. As with many things, a healthy approach is using social media with careful moderation.

“I think if teens learn and understand the importance of balancing their social activities online and in real life, they’d find themselves less awkward in everyday social settings,” said advertising junior Erica Flores.

This isn’t a disorder teens will easily identify with, and they probably wouldn’t believe social media apps like Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat add more anxiety to their lives. There’s a correlation between self-esteem and online communication skills, but for individuals who find it difficult to maintain offline relationships, it’s negative.

“Everyone is so focused on getting a certain amount of likes because they think it’s an accurate reflection on their social status,” said kinesiology sophomore Robert Last. “People think you’re popular and that it’s representative of their reputation, but it’s not.”

The Huffington Post reported that more than 5o percent of the social media users polled in a survey by Anxiety UK said their lives have been negatively changed by Facebook, Twitter and other social networks in 2012.

Technology and social media are evolving so quickly that we sometimes have trouble keeping up.

People are used to knowing what’s going on everywhere at any given time. This need to have access to see what’s going on in areas that are not in front of us has been ingrained into our minds.

Teens fear that they’re missing out on whatever their friends are doing if they aren’t there with them. This type of social anxiety has a negative impact on teenagers during crucial periods of their social development.

“It’s annoying when you’re spending time with someone, and all they do is stay on their phone the entire time. I think people are starting to be mindful because it’s something everyone is beginning to notice,” Last said. “No one needs to take out their phone out of boredom. Go out and do something great.”

Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations senior and may be reached at [email protected].


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  • There’s a dearth of hard data in this article. In fact the only data are from a survey of people with anxiety, which by definition is unrepresentative.

    It’s incorrect to call fear of missing out on something “social anxiety.” SAD is about fear of being rejected or negatively judged and results in avoiding social situations, up to and including thinking up phony excuses and trying to convince oneself of them, as I used to do. It’s the polar opposite of worrying about missing out on something. In fact it’s physically impossible to hide in one’s room to avoid face-to-face interaction, and simultaneously worry about missing opportunities for it, yet this article treats them as if they are the same.

    Even if heavy social media users do disproportionately suffer from SAD (not established here), there’s no apparent reason the first would cause the second, and every reason to surmise the reverse.

    I HAVE noticed that some people obsessively check social media, and find it annoying. It’s now my policy to stipulate that a date put their phone away for the duration.

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