The Remarkable Connection Between Social Anxiety, The Fear Of Public Speaking, And The Internet

Aug 06, 2022

The remarkable connection between social anxiety, the fear of public speaking, and the internet

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This blog, like many others, started out with a simple idea. I was thinking that the internet, and how people use it, may be causing social anxiety to be on the rise. Between the option to be anonymous and the way that people portray themselves on social media, this could only serve to alienate. Right? 

Some people only show the best and happiest parts of their lives. Others use it as a platform to generate sympathy. While some use it to "stir the pot" and troll or attack. How does this affect people in their day-to-day lives? 

Then I started to look for the research. I was more than a little surprised at what I found.

The Fear of Public Speaking  

The fear of public speaking is called Glossophobia. It's attributed to a varying percentage of the population, depending on the study or article. 

It's known that humans are social creatures. We as humans have a deep need to be a part of a group. This comes from our old-school, tribal days when we had protection by being a part of a pack. A predator is less likely to take a chance attacking a group than a single being.

But, what if you say the wrong thing in front of your group? What if they don't like you? Then you risk being cast out and left to fend for yourself. You may feel the need to state your case to the group to save yourself. This explains the fear of speaking in front of a crowd.[151]

Is social anxiety the same as the fear of public speaking?

While people with social anxiety are likely to fear speaking in front of others, not everyone with that fear has social anxiety. Those with anxiety may feel much more at ease communicating online. There's less pressure when interacting through text than when speaking face-to-face. 

With strangers, you're free to stay anonymous and only share what you're comfortable with. You can walk away completely without guilt about social norms. With people you know, you can put it away and come back to it when you have more emotional energy. 

Does this translate to a higher internet presence? 

I looked at a meta review of 22 studies that span a 26-year period. It focused on the internet usage habits of the socially anxious. There was no indication that they spend more time online than others. 

The evidence seems to show that the internet is a life-saving tool for people that have been isolated and/or marginalized. It provides a voice and access to resources. 

It also makes counseling or treatment more available. Apps and websites can pair people with therapists and counselors with compatible personalities. They can communicate online, through text or video chat, which has made treatment more available.[150]

Expanding the conversation

I am by nature an extrovert; I enjoy the company of others and relish a good conversation in person. Because of this I resist social media and online interaction. But I discovered that the internet is quite literally a platform. One that allows an entirely different group to enter the conversation and make their opinions known. A place for them to feel heard, to be a part of a group. This changed my view of how valuable and vital the internet is to the world. 

Certainly, not everyone uses their voice responsibly. But, I believe that the inclusion of an underrepresented faction of society is worth the price. We can learn to spot those that are intentionally trying to bait us and others into being upset. We can ignore them and not let them get to us. Free speech is a beautiful thing and the more people that are included, the better off we will be. 

Continue Your Journey