The College Experience – Social Media & Anxiety


Experience is a great teacher. We learn though successes, we learn through mistakes, and we even learn from the internet. This summer, we are helping our students learn before their college experience. We have pulled together our experience in working with some of the brightest students, experience from working on college campuses in counseling, student life, disability services, and collegiate teaching to help equip our students as they take on this next phase of their student careers. We have chosen eight, essential topics to having a successful college experience in and out of the classroom.

Today, our topic is social media!

In week 3 of the 8 week course, we will discuss the impact of social media in teenagers’ lives. Social media seems to be a part of all teenagers’ lives these days. If you scanned a lunchroom at your local high school, you will most likely see that the majority of teens are checking or updating some sort of social media account. It’s not surprising but should it be concerning? I’ve had so many parents of teens ask me all sort of social media questions recently. “Should I be concerned that she has an Instagram?” “Should I limit his time on his phone?” “What exactly is Snap Chat?”

The answers to these, and the many other questions concerning social media, are complex. However, in this particular blog, I would like to highlight some ways in which anxiety has been linked to teenagers who use social media.

It’s a real thing. This phrase stands for “fear of missing out” and it plays a large part in the connection between anxiety and social media. According to findings by the University of Glasgow, the pressure to be available 24/7 and the perceived necessity of responding to posts immediately can increase anxiety. Feelings of anxiety are also caused by the fear of missing out on what friends are doing. Being plugged in constantly means always being able to see what your friends are doing and more importantly, what you might not be a part of.

Sleep Deprivation
Sleep is extremely important for adolescents for many reasons. Researchers at the University of Glasgow found that teens who are extremely active and emotionally invested in their digital lives reported worse sleep quality compared to their peers who spent less time or cared less about social media. Those who logged on at night are particularly affected. Adolescence is a time of increased vulnerability for the onset of anxiety with poor sleep quality being a possible contributor.

Comparison Trap
This one might self-explanatory. Everyone is aware that pictures are doctored and filtered to look their best before posted on social media but it is hard to remember that in the moment. Teenagers are constantly comparing their own lives to the lives of their social media counterparts. This can often lead to feelings of self-consciousness, which could manifest into social anxiety.

If you are concerned about your teenager’s social media habits, try to have an open and non-judgmental conversation about it. If this seems daunting, reach out to a therapist or counselor who specializes in working with families and teens.

We are looking forward to helping you make the most of your time as you head off to college!  For more information or to register for The College Experience, click here!

Other parts in this series include:
Time Management

Amanda Dempsey, LAMFT
Adempsey @