Online Peer Pressure: How Social Media Can Cause Teen Anxiety and How DBT Can Help
By Jeanette Lorandini
There are many articles and stories out there discussing teen anxiety and also the impact of social media. In fact, it is estimated that teenagers spend, on average, about 9 hours a day on social media platforms.
They are interacting with each other, sending messages and sharing photos and videos. However, issues such as peer pressure, something that many teens face in real life (also known as “IRL”) have also moved online too. Social media and peer pressure unfortunately go hand and hand and are very present in many teens’ lives.
Facing bullying and peer pressure online can lead to anxiety for teens. How does this happen? And what can be done about this problem?
Dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT for social anxiety and anxiety in general, can help.
The Echo Chamber of Social Media
First, let’s consider the echo chamber that is social media. Somebody posts something and that gets amplified by other people. You’ve probably heard the term “gone viral” to describe this phenomenon. But what happens when a teen sees something that’s been posted about themselves online?
Or, if there have been posts made by one of their friends? Suddenly other teens pick up on the post, comment on it, and re-share it. Quickly it feels that everyone is discussing this post. That’s certainly anxiety-inducing.
The Pressure to Be Perfect
Another way that social media can cause teens anxiety is the pressure to be perfect online. That means photos and videos that look good and portray your teen as happy, positive, etc. However, what happens when your teen doesn’t feel that way at all?
If they are struggling with depression, and yet still feel pressured to present themselves in ways they don’t actually feel, that causes stress and anxiety. The same would be true in the real world when some feel obligated to act and talk in a certain way to put up a front that they are okay. When, in reality, they are really struggling.
The Negative Echo Chamber
As mentioned above, social media is often like an echo chamber. That’s great if you are viewing content that is affirming. It helps you to feel you are part of a greater community. But what happens when your teen is struggling? Have you ever heard the phrase “misery loves company?”
With the search features on social media platforms, teens seek out and find communities that might reinforce the negative thoughts and beliefs that they are already grappling with. These groups amplify this mindset, and in turn, heighten existing issues like anxiety.
The Regrets of Sharing
Teens are notorious for being impulsive and making poor decisions. That’s not a criticism of teenagers. It’s actually rooted in brain science. Human brains don’t fully develop until the mid-to-late twenties. So, when teens make decisions, they may not always put in the thought and intention that adults may do.
That leads to impulsive choices that, unfortunately, live online forever. You often hear a news story about a teen that posted something online that they shouldn’t have. The content gets shared with everyone, and suddenly everyone knows. And there’s nowhere to hide.
How DBT Can Help
One way to counter the social anxiety and general anxiety from social media comes from DBT. The advantage of DBT is that it’s a skills-based approach to managing anxiety and other mental health problems. These include:
- Managing emotions
- Interpersonal effectiveness skills
- Distress tolerance
These skills will help your teen to manage anxiety as it occurs in the moment. That’s very useful. It allows teens to stay calm and not let their anxiety take control. It also means that you, as a parent, have a better chance of helping your teen, understanding what’s going on, listening, and providing support.
Although social media affords people the power to form connections, it also causes anxiety too. The stress that teens used to face within the walls of the school from navigating complex social situation has now been transferred online. You can help by being aware of how social media breeds anxiety and recognize your teen needs help. Find out more today about how dialectical behavioral therapy for teens can help.
Click here for more on DBT for Teen Counseling.
Suffolk DBT proudly provides quality dialectical behavior therapy, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, at their offices in Manhattan and Long Island, New York and online. Their experienced NYC therapists specialize in serving teens, children, adults, and college students struggling with depression, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and self-harm. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills and treatment can help you or your kids to manage emotions and work through life’s challenges.