What Facebook has to teach us about anxiety

I want to share a metaphor with you.

Imagine your thinking being like your Facebook Feed.

If you sit and watch your Facebook feed it changes all the time with post after post (thought after thought).

If you do nothing they just roll on by, and you don’t get to control what shows up there. That’s Facebook’s job.

But sometimes a particular post catches your eye and it occurs to you to click onto a post or engage with it in some way and off you go, often lost in a rabbit hole of Facebook (you know what I mean!).

Anxiety is a ‘thing of interest’ to you right now, that’s why you clicked on this particular post.

You’ve probably clicked on other ‘anxiety’ posts in the past, that’s the only reason this one showed up in your feed today.

Facebook knows you’re interested.

So Facebook gives you more of what it sees you often indulge in.

One click leads to another and before you know it you’ve spent 2 hours clicking on anxiety posts until for some reason you just stop and go do something else.

And the news feed starts scrolling again with all sorts of things and then ‘Oh, there’s another anxiety one again, I’ll just click on that!’ and you stop the flow and get stuck there again for a while.

You might have been doing that for 20 years.

So what’s Facebook going to show you tomorrow?


Now here’s a thing.

I noticed one of my friend used to post pictures of her houseplants and share a lot about what her baby had eaten for each meal.

I love her and all that, but I’m soooo not interested.

I used to ‘like’ her posts just to be nice but then I realised how the Facebook algorithm works.

If I’m not particularly interested in seeing more of her posts, all I have to do is stop clicking on the ones that show up today.

Then tomorrow they may show up again, but because I understand the system, I just don’t click on them tomorrow either.

And over time, slowly but surely, they just drop out of my feed.

That’s the way the system works.

When I realised not engaging with my friends’ posts was even an option, once I understood the system and adjusted accordingly, they just stopped showing up so often.

That’s how ‘real’ and ‘important’ our anxious thoughts are.

I didn’t need a strategy to get rid of my friend’s posts.

I didn’t have to try to distract myself when they came up.

I didn’t have to try to control my response to her posts.

I just understood how the system works – if you don’t click on the posts, over time they just disappear from your feed.

It really is that simple.

Doubtful? Listen to the audio below to hear more.