Social networking is fab, isn't it? The rekindled
friendships, the fun quizzes and game applications, the mind-altering, crippling
just be the before-effects of Memorial Day bar-b-que fumes decaying my remaining brain matter, but I
think it's time to coin a new buzzphrase: Social Networking Anxiety Disorder,
or as we'll call it from here on out, SNAD.
To be clear, SNAD is a bit different from
what psychiatrists have defined as Social Anxiety Disorder, or SAD. According
to the DSM IV, the guidebook to all things mental, SAD is "a persistent fear of one
or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to
unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by
others" (a.k.a. "Life").
SNAD, on the other hand, is caused by stress from the pressures of social networking: the constant Friend
requests, Scrabulous requests, photo tag requests, group and event invitations... Consider also the anxiety of creating things like
"limited profiles," carefully managing how much of ourselves to reveal
to our virtual associates -- and that accompanying, nagging, guilty
question: "Will this person realize I restricted his ability to see my
Speaking on a recent O'Reilly Webcast (The Facebook Application Ecosystem: Why Some Thrive -- and Most Don't), Shelly Farnham, doctor of social psychology, said, "A common
problem in social networking applications is it's hard to say no to people who want to be
your friend," adding that a number of applications ease this pain by allowing you to isolate 25 Friends (e.g., Top Friends).
But what about when someone you don't consider to be a "Top Friend" per se requests to be part of that elite list? Truth be told, our social algorithms and applications just can't capture the complexities of human relationships.
Not sure if you're suffering? Here are three symptoms of SNAD to look out for. If you have any of these, you should contact your mental-health-professional avatar immediately.
1. You were considering breaking up with your significant other, but decided to stick it out because of the anxiety associated with changing your Relationship Status on Facebook and de-tagging hundreds of photos.
2. You currently have 36+ Friend requests festering on Facebook or MySpace, which have built up month over month because you don't want your rejection to send these strangers on a downward, emotional spiral.
3. You belong to several groups including "I Skin Cats on Sundays" and "Cousins Make Great Husbands," because, well, they were nice enough to invite you...
Silly symptoms aside, it's true that there's a certain anxiety that comes along with social networking, whether it's from the pressure of keeping people up to date, or the guilt in rejecting a Friend request. Certainly, if we recognize something like Internet Addiction and set up camps for the sufferers, we can recognize the mental tolls of social networking.
You could, of course, just make your profile private to all but a few special Friends. But once one less special Friend finds out you have a profile you've never told her about, it's right back to the days of nail biting, hives, and Lexapro.
— Nicole Ferraro, Site Editor, Internet Evolution