Interesting article in the new edition of Psychologies magazine which reports on a new syndrome called Status Update Anxiety which is rising out of the use of social networking sites like Twitter, Dopplr, Facebook and some of the more “niche” sites such as Mon.thly.Info which (bizarrely) tracks menstrual cycles and Bedpost which invites users to chart their sex life! Anyway, the thrust of the article is that social networking media is making us all obsessed with communicating every factual, banal, irrelevant or intensely personal details of our lives. Hence the Status Update Anxiety.

The focus seems to be on high ‘self-monitors’ – people with a greater level of self-consciousness and preoccupation with the social appropriateness of their actions, who see online news feeds as a means of getting an instantly gratifying way of controlling personal image. “This need has always been there,” says Professor Timothy Pychyl of Canada’s Carleton University. “People write autobiographies with the same intent. Now the internet has given everyone that potential, it’s more democratic. The odd thing is that we think we have an audience. There’s an odd sense of narcissism to think that someone really cares whether I’ve just updated my Facebook page to say ‘I’m going shopping’, as if someone in real time is watching what I’m doing. But it does provide the updater with a sense of connection.”

Pychyl goes on: “I’m surprised we haven’t seen published research yet on the addictive nature of social networking. It certainly has the potential to bring out the worst in us, especially those of us who are living in a state of extended adolescence (and it’s argued that so many of us are delaying adulthood we don’t really reach it until our thirties). All these people who are using social networking sites are demonstrating the childish egocentrism that we see in both toddlers and teenagers – all the world’s a stage and everyone is my audience. Social networking sites act as a tool to extend that egocentrism, rather than fostering the kind of perspective-taking that can help us mature.”

So the article seems to say that social networkers and Twitterati are just a bunch of immature, anxious children who just want to say “look at me! Look at me!”

Interesting food for thought....

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Tags: anxiety, facebook, social networking, twitter

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