Is Social Networking Increasing Your Relationship Anxiety?

October 24, 2011 Tracey Lloyd

Everyone has a story about a couple they know who've argued openly on Facebook. Or the person who was ostracized by their followers on Twitter. Online social networks can bring out the worst in public behavior for some people, spurred on by anonymity and groupthink. The average person might be plagued by the public nature of social networks. However, when you have a mental illness, particularly one with a component of anxiety, tools like Twitter and Facebook can become breeding grounds for obsessive behavior.

Relationships and Facebook: It's Always Complicated

For example, I've recently become interested in a man named Erik. We met a few months ago through work but hadn't seen each other socially until recently. Let's just say that certain events of a physical nature transpired and I believe that he's similarly interested in pursuing some level of social interaction. I'm not exactly sure what that level is because I was too wimpy to ask outright. However, Erik did send me a Facebook friend request the day after we hung out, which is the modern-day equivalent of asking for someone's number. I think. See, I actually haven't really dated since Facebook became popular, but I'm pretty sure it means something to "friend" someone after you've seen them naked. I think.

This Manic Episode Brought to You by Facebook

Perhaps I was already feeling anxious before Erik and I hooked up. And if he'd walked out of my door without making future communication, I could easily have talked myself out of caring about him with rational self-talk. But now that we're Facebook friends, I have access to a whole level of information to turn obsessive thoughts into obsessive behaviors. Before Facebook, I could wonder why a guy didn't call and create self-delusional excuses for him. "He must be really busy with work," I'd tell myself. But now, with access to Erik's friends and general information, I can act on my ridiculous impulses. When I post on his wall, I can continually refresh my browser to see when he posts back. Or I can go stealth and look at the pictures of his ex-wife; I'll use these to later confirm the lingering suspicion that, since I don't look like the ex-wife, Erik was just lying about how beautiful he thinks I am. I mean, if he was married to her and. . .

Insert positive affirmation here.

Unraveling Social Anxiety from Online Social Media

Don't get me wrong: there are many relationship benefits to online social engagements, like finding support for your illness from people around the world even if you haven't found it in your "real life" community. I'm reminded of some advice from a Twitter friend who I recently asked about the intersection of social networking tools and her obsessive-compulsive disorder. She reminded me of the importance of good mental hygiene across all situations, and the need to limit exposure to triggers.

So, at least for now, I'm turning off the computer, taking some deep breaths, and limiting the number of times I visit Facebook daily. I'll let you know how that all works out.

Find Tracey on Twitter, Facebook, and her personal blog.

APA Reference
Lloyd, T. (2011, October 24). Is Social Networking Increasing Your Relationship Anxiety?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, February 27 from

Author: Tracey Lloyd

Deltra Coyne
October, 25 2011 at 3:05 am

Angela G - there are so many people who use social networking to extend their inappropriate behavior to more people, and with greater efficiency, like your "friends" who want to be "more". Facebook brings up lots of emotional issues because it exposes you to so many people at once. But I still like it for keeping up with friends from school that I don't get to see often. Definitely delete the trigger people!
Andrea - it's good advice to remember that Facebook has real people behind it and to treat interacting with them the same way you'd get to know people in person. I also a personal FB page and one associated with blogging - doesn't it get confusing sometimes? I'd love any pointers on juggling
Angela M - Glad to know it's not just me and my nerdy friends :-)

Angela McClanahan
October, 24 2011 at 3:46 pm

This post is hilarious--partly because of the finesse with which it's written; partly because it's true. So, so true. Uh...not that I would know from personal experience or anything. Yeah.

October, 24 2011 at 1:01 pm

Facebook is complicated. Like anything else it can be good or bad. It's definitely a part of almost everyone's social life. I try to stay positive on Facebook. I am in charge of my company's Facebook presence at work, I have a personal Facebook page, and a Facebook page associated with the blog I write, so I am on Facebook a lot. Just as in real life, there is a learning curve when it comes to interacting with friends--especially new friends. I try to limit the time I spend on my personal page. It is easy to become obsessive!

Angela E. Gambrel
October, 24 2011 at 6:29 am

I also have mixed about Facebook and other social media, particularly when you have a mental illness. I am friends and part of several groups on FB that are made up of people with eating disorders. We know each other from our personal blogs — I have written one since 2008 about my struggles with anorexia, and now write HealthyPlace's eating disorders recovery blog, Surviving ED — and connect and support each other through our various struggles with recovery and life in general.
That is the good part. The bad part relates more to what you wrote about — FB and romantic relationships. Please be careful. My husband and I recently separated and I have had contact with several FB "friends" who want to be more, but aren't very respectful or honest at times. It is easy to get hurt, and I am considering taking a FB break because it is starting to cause me problems. The only thing is that FB is the only way I can keep in contact with some friends, and I still like the support from the eating disorders groups. Maybe defriend those who act like jerks?
I can definitely relate to your post. Great topic and good job with it!!!

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