How Relationship Anxiety Leads To Problematic Facebook Behavior
If you have a friend who seems a little too dependent on social media and it seems like it's affecting her IRL life — or you feel like your Insta obsession is taking a toll on your mood — you're not alone. Many of us see needy or obsessive social media use as problematic — and maybe even indicative of later problems. But new research shows that it might be more than a hunch.
New research published in BMC Psychology found that relationship anxiety is linked to problematic Facebook use. Those who have "attachment anxiety" — who feel insecure in their relationship — were found to use Facebook to attempt to compensate for this, though often it has the reverse effect. The study authors looked at 717 adult Facebook users and measured them in areas like psychological distress, self-esteem, and adult attachment. They then compared this to their Facebook usage, to see if they used it in problematic ways. What was considered "problematic" Facebook usage? All of the red flags that you might think: social comparisons, oversharing, creating a false impression of their life, a preoccupation with impressions, and an overuse of social media.
What they found was that attachment anxiety was predictive of all of the problematic Facebook behaviors — so feeling insecure in your relationship could lead to using Facebook in an array of worrying ways. But perhaps what was even more interesting was the fact that the study authors warned that these behaviors could actually make their attachment anxiety worse.
“It is important to stress that the research does not suggest that there is something damaging about Facebook or other social media services, but rather, some people network online in ways that could be considered maladaptive, exacerbating distress and vulnerability,” Sally Flynn, one of the study authors, told PsyPost. “We would hope that as a result of this research, people will become more mindful regarding how they engage with social media platforms such as Facebook, perhaps monitoring how they feel before and after using the site, and if necessary, adapting their use accordingly.”
But many of us know how hard it can be to resist the draw of social media, especially when we're feeling down on ourselves. Even when we know that it's not the best thing for us, we keep scrolling and refreshing.
Keep Some Perspective On Social Media
If you find social media to be negative influence in your life, start by remembering that what you're seeing on other people's accounts just isn't real life.
"The key is to not compare yourself to anyone else, especially based on social media, as the picture they are painting is not a complete and accurate one," psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. So rather than misrepresenting your life to try to keep up with your friend's — or to chase likes — remember to take what you see with a pinch of salt.
If you find that you can't keep some perspective when you're using social media, then cutting down on your app and phone use might be the right choice for you. "Try to cut back on using your phone gradually," David Brudö, co-founder and CEO at mental wellbeing and personal development app Remente, tells Bustle. "Try simply not checking it unless you actually need to use it. Or, leave your phone at home when you go out for dinner or grocery shopping. This way it will help you to change your habits in small dosages." Sometimes, you have to step away.
Social media is a blessing and a curse for many of us, but, if you suffer from attachment anxiety, the negative effects can be even more pronounced. Make sure to protect yourself — even if that means taking a break from it.