Thursday, August 1, 2019

Social Anxiety in the Digital Age

From Psychology Today:
Digital technology is a double-edged sword, perhaps especially as it interacts with socially phobic behaviors. “It's hard to speak in generalities about this,” as though it were universally good or bad, explains Franklin Schneier, co-director of Columbia University’s Anxiety Disorders Clinic. Yes, Internet use can be a maladaptive avoidance behavior for people with social anxiety. On the other hand, he says, “You may have someone who was so shy that they really would have had very little opportunity to socially interact. And for them, being able to be online is not avoidance, but actually improving their opportunity for interaction.” 
Some research supports the idea that many individuals with social anxiety prefer communicating online. A 2016 meta-analysis in the journal Computers in Human Behavior showed a correlation “between social anxiety and feelings of comfort online.” Computer mediated communication offers a few key features that may appeal to socially anxious individuals: “text-based communication with reduced audio and visual cues,” “anonymity,” and asynchronicity (i.e., there is no immediate need to respond). In other words, some of the social cues required of face-to-face communication are absent. These cues often present a source of worry and discomfort for the highly socially anxious. “Gestures, facial expressions, eye contact … these are the subtle features of social interactions that people with social anxiety disorder will often have a problem with,” says Hofmann. It makes sense, then, that they might feel more comfortable in a digital environment. (Read more.)

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