ere’s some food for thought from a source that usually traffics in vulgarity and inside jokes:
“Social Media Syndrome (SMS): The condition in which a person lives vicariously through themselves.” — Urban Dictionary
They offer this hypothetical exchange by way of example:
Guy 1 at party: Hey I heard Betty was going to be here! Have you seen her yet, I can’t wait to meet her! She’s so cray!
Guy 2 at party: Dude, she’s been here all night. She’s that sad looking girl sitting alone in the corner.
Guy 1 at party: What?! I thought she’d be dancing on a table by now from all her awesome FB and IG posts!
Guy 2 at party: Yeah, you’d think but she has a classic case of social media syndrome (SMS).
It’s funny, but isn’t it also kind of…true? Don’t we know people who seem far livelier and all-around more interesting online than in real life? It’s certainly an observable phenomenon, but what is the cause? Are people just lying to make themselves more interesting?
If you feel like you’ve been suffering from SMS, here’s the good news: having a more active and vivacious life online is usually the result of being introverted. As an introvert, social media finally gives you the chance to interact as much as you really want to. You can say what’s on your mind with less crippling anxiety than you’d have in a real-world scenario.
Now, here’s the bad news: this often comes off as “false” or “fake” to outside observers. So, what can you do to balance your online life and real-world social interactions? It’s pretty simple, really. In fact, it kind of comes down to one basic rule: don’t exaggerate. There’s a fine line between being an active participant in social media and being a teller of tall tales. If you weren’t really “dancing on a table”, but instead took a quick photo opp and posted it to Facebook, just a leave a little disclaimer.
Remember, you don’t have to be someone you’re not. The wonderful thing about social networking is the ability to fully be ourselves, to put forth an image to the whole world of what best represents our thoughts and feelings. There’s no need to pretend you do all this “cool” stuff just to impress your peers. If you’re a total geek, just let it shine! Actually, it doesn’t matter what you’re into. The key is to just be yourself.
Why? Because it’s healthy. In fact, exaggerating your real life activities online can actually be hazardous to your health. It may lead to SMAD, or Social Media Anxiety Disorder. Although it’s often dismissed, SMAD can seriously impact your life.
Stefan Hofmann, director of the Social Anxiety Program at Boston University, says younger people often experience stress from increased peer pressure they encounter online. The desire to fit in is strong, but it can easily overtake you. Trust us, you don’t want to end up in a web of lies aimed at making yourself look good. The only result of getting caught up with that kind of peer pressure is stress, something which can lead to even more serious health problems.
What kind of health problems? Increased risk of substance abuse is one. A disturbing trend in some of America’s cities sees more young people turning to drugs and alcohol as a form of social escapism. Social media certainly doesn’t bear the blame alone, as a number of environmental and genetic factors also play a part. But increased stress due to overuse of social networking sites may be a factor in youth substance abuse in cities like San Diego, California. San Diego outpatient rehab centers note that many older patients turned to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism for stress.
So, are you suffering from Social Media Syndrome? If you think you are, just remember there’s no shame in being an engaged and active user of social media. However, if you deliberately mislead others to fit in, you may be causing yourself unnecessary stress.
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