Social Media Performance Anxiety?

Take a look at your friends’ Facebook profiles. Chances are that they are putting forward the “best” version of themselves. You see them going on exotic vacations, dining at fine restaurants, and living up quite the exciting life. It looks like they are achieving all kinds of success and enjoying all kinds of happiness.

Some of them might indeed be leading these kinds of lives, but by definition, most of your friends are probably leading regular lives, just like you and me. They’re normal, meaning that the majority of their days are likely occupied with going to work, watching television, and enjoying the occasional leisure activity. What you see on Facebook isn’t the whole picture; it’s a performance.

The rock star skateboarder is just a very slim slice of reality.

It’s not just Facebook either. This phenomenon encompasses all kinds of social media, from Twitter to Tumblr. Many people feel the pressure of the performance, because they feel they need to live up to the expectations set out by the other Facebook performers on the stage. If Joan just went to Cuba, I need to show that I just went to Malaysia, for example. If Jack is really happy with his new iPhone, I need to show how happy I am with my new MacBook.

As a social species, for better or for worse, we are constantly judging one another. We compare ourselves to our peer group to see how we are faring at life, from the realm of the work to the realm of personal relationships. That’s part of the reason why so many people get addicted to Facebook in the first place; they’re checking up on their peers. It’s almost voyeuristic, even if it’s voluntary.

And with this comes the social media performance anxiety. You figure that your presence on Facebook has effectively put your life on a stage. It’s out there for people to view and critique, so you typically only put out the very best version of yourself. This anxiety can lead itself to depression in some, but it’s more about the pressure that everyone else feels as a result.

If you truly did not care what anyone else thought of you, would you have stepped up on that stage in the first place? Food for thought.