• Sophie Rogers

Anxiety today – Am I a social influencer? (part 1)

It’s a household word. Everyone can identify with feeling anxious. Nowadays nearly everyone ‘suffers’ with a form of anxiety at one time or another in their life. It’s big business in the mental health sector and it breeds fear in anyone who has a loved one who struggles with it.

I’ve met with many people in primary care and self-referral services who identify they have anxiety. It shows itself as panic attacks, or refusing school. I even met a young professional man on a train in Sweden who shared that he found social media anxiety provoking. I was travelling without a mobile phone. He asked if I was a social influencer. Perhaps I am. As are you?

How do you know you are anxious? And what might the triggers be? Some years ago before the internet existed, we used to buy magazines. As pre and teenage girls we would pore over pages of air brushed models wearing the latest fashions. We’d read all the tips on how to lose unwanted facial and thigh fat, and how to navigate relationships. We’d read about sexual positions and check out what we could afford on the high street. Then wait for Saturday to come, to visit the shops and try things on.

At some point I stopped buying and reading those magazines. I became increasingly less interested. I became conscientious about choosing not to expose myself to the deteriorating self esteem, backward logic of fashion and gossip magazines. I didn't want to follow trends and feel harassed by glossy adverts. I didn't want to paint my face in colours that were almost the same colour as my face. I didn't want to follow suit. I went to art college and well, took a serious turn in the other direction from main stream trends and attitudes.

I am one hundred per cent glad - actually relieved that I grew up without the internet and social media, where I’m sure I would have been bullied. I am so glad I grew up in the countryside. I spent hours outside messing about, dreaming. When I speak to people older than me who grew up in cities, they too went out and roamed the over-grown wildernesses that surrounded places like Manchester and Coventry. No worries, off they went. Today we all recognise the fears that keep children close by. But the fear sadly isn’t outside any more. It’s right there, right here, this screen. It’s there. The dangers, the harassment, the triggers. Every time I turn this computer on, I have to click off a different image of a place somewhere on planet Earth. This frustrates me, another faff and another imposition. Thus anxious feelings emerge.

My mind thinks about the future.

‘Oh, I want to go there’ but ‘where is there?’ Or ‘Oh, I’ve been there’ and on it goes. Swaying between ideas for the future and memories of the past.

However we are not just ‘thinking’ beings, ‘feelings’ join in. ‘Oh it would feel so nice to go there, I would be happier’, then we start to yearn to be somewhere else. Or wish I was still there in the past. Up and down I seesaw. I want, I need. Or, I am just so fed up with my computer showing me these pictures every time I use it, I feel angry and I tap the buttons firmly and energetically, cursing the designer, thinking I should have a more expensive computer that doesn't hassle me with these images. And on I think about changing. And on my feelings erupt and affect me, on a physical level.

Curious to read on – see my next blog post - Anxiety is natural (part 2)

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