Are expats most at risk from social media addiction?

Nowadays it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with people via social media; even if you’ve moved to the other side of the world. However, with levels of anxiety among expats on the rise, and many people now speculating that social media is the cause for the rising levels of anxiety on a global scale, you can’t help but wonder if expats are the group at most exposure to these risks.

Helping us to stay connected

The benefits of having social media as an expat cannot be disputed; it enables you to stay in touch with friends and families across a variety of platforms, find out about news and events  going on back home almost instantaneously and helps you to meet new acquaintances. It’s also a lot harder to get homesick these days when home is just a Skype call away and you can update everyone on all your latest adventures as they happen instead of having to relay all the details later in a long phone call or letter.

Bringing people together?

However, the FOMO phenomenon has never seemed so poignant as when you’re adjusting to life in a strange country and watching your friends and family update their social media feeds with all sorts of fun and exciting things that don’t include you. You become more dependent on these platforms so you can stay updated with everything going on back home, not realising that these increasing levels of exposure can be quite dangerous. It’s very easy to forget that people generally only tend to post about the good things going on in their life, leaving out the mundane details or things that don’t go quite right. When that’s all you’re seeing, however, your brain starts to substitute this tailored version of reality with normality.

The dark side of social media

This is when social media starts to becomes an addiction which, along with the pressure to present a similar picture of fun and success to others, increases levels of anxiety and depression. It’s almost a catch-22 situation; expats turn to social media as a comfort when they feel isolated or homesick, but using these platforms often just increases these feelings even more. Many are also reluctant to share how they’re really feeling with others over social media as they feel they have to keep up the charade of always being happy and positive, which, again, just intensifies the problem. Besides, having a conversation via video calls or Whatsapp never completely replicates the experience of being able to talk to someone face to face.   

So while it’s without question that, thanks to social media platforms, it’s easier than ever to start a new life abroad, remember that keeping up with everything going on back home may be distracting you from enjoying your new surroundings. Although adjusting to a new life can be hard at first, bear in mind that this transition period usually doesn’t last for very long and can also help push you out of your comfort zone; forcing you to make that extra effort to go out and socialise. As the age-old saying goes, keep everything in moderation and soon you’ll find yourself enjoying the best of both worlds.

Image: Beach girl with phone by Marjan Lazarevski, CC 2.0

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Kat Ashton

Kat Ashton currently resides in Madrid. She is a harsh critic of anything that contains fennel and spends her time reading, writing and dreaming about the intangible world of ideas.

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