Social Media Stress Disorder

By: Guest | May 3, 2011 | 

Brian Meeks has delusions of novelist, which he feeds by writing the Henry Wood Detective series (Available soon and on his blahg)

Kathryn sat at her desk watching her Twitter stream on TweetDeck.  There were a couple of people talking about a movie; she hesitated to jump in, because she had been watching for while. It always stressed her out, to feel like a lurker.

Her spawn had been put to bed an hour ago.  She felt like they didn’t appreciate her for hosting the little parasites for nine months, but she loved them.  Her husband was lightly snoring on the couch, while ESPN droned on in the background.

A quick check of Gmail revealed a bevy of stuff in the inbox.  A message from Groupon didn’t interest her, so she deleted it.  A few bits of spam were trashed too.  Then she saw it, from FB, “Mrs. Robinson, you have been tagged in a photo.” The anxiety she had felt at watching the Twitter stream now seemed trivial.  She couldn’t move, her right hand hovered over the mouse, afraid to click.  If it was from Lucy, she might kill her.  It was.

At least three people had already seen it.

The photo of her, from the bachelorette party, showed her draped across a young lacrosse player from Wisconsin.  You couldn’t see her face, but you could see his hand examining the fabric on her skirt, which had ridden up enough to expose her rather saucy stockings underneath.  It was obvious they were either a couple of close talkers, heatedly discussing politics, or were in fact kissing like rabid teenagers.

Her friend said, “coo coo ca choo.” Kathryn didn’t laugh.  Her head was swirling with angst, and she could hear Simon and Garfunkel, from somewhere deep in her mind.  Her friends Teri and Robert gave thumbs ups.  She was mortified.

Has this happened to you?  Do you suffer from SMSD, or Social Media Stress Disorder? The symptoms vary between people and genders.  Males often find heightened anxiety when receiving ‘friend requests’ from hot Russian brides seeking grooms.  Women have been driven to reckless chocolate bingeing, after trying to keep up with dozens of blogs, while sending out #FollowFriday.

In a recent issue of Psychology Tomorrow Afternoon, Dr. Tweety McTweeterson, explains, “It starts out innocently enough.  A person gets a Facebook account and reconnects with a few friends from college.  They enjoy the daily updates, but soon find that they need more.  Facebook is a gateway social media tool.  When Facebook no longer feeds their social media buzz, they turn to Twitter (the crack of social media).  At first, it is confusing, but soon they have 40 or 50 followers and are getting to know their new friends.  After a few months, they find themselves spending more and more time on Twitter, until one day they discover TweetDeck.  It is all downhill from there.  The addict is tweeting at all hours, often carrying on three or four conversations at once.  They are hooked.”

Warning signs:

  1. Do you check your twitter stream the moment you wake, worried you might have missed something?
  2. Does it hurt your feelings when friends and family look at you with a combination of pity and concern, when you excitedly told them you now had 1,000 followers?
  3. Have you retweeted a celebrity tweet with delusions that they give a damn?
  4. Have you crossed out Reese Witherspoon and the cast of Glee, as the stars you would most like to meet, and replaced them with Gini Dietrich and Shonali Burke?
  5. Do offers of free iPad 2 make you scream at your monitor with howler monkey angst?
  6. Have you checked your Klout score today and felt sad that it went down?  (Go on, admit it, nobody will know.)

If any of these sound familiar, you may be vulnerable to SMSD.  The attacks can be brutal, leading to feelings of nerdiness with light bouts of geekiness.  Under no circumstance should you try to talk about it with your family or friends, as you will be mocked, making the situation worse.  Take comfort in the fact that one day, they will all be on Twitter, coming to you for advice and jealously coveting your enormous Klout.  (Which is not a euphemism, though it should be.)

This disease is relative new, having been invented two nights ago, on Twitter.  We are still researching possible symptoms.  If you know someone who suffers from SMSD or have symptoms to add, please mention them in the comments.

See you on Twitter


Brian Meeks has delusions of novelist, which he feeds by writing the Henry Wood Detective series (Available soon and on his blahg). When the economy went south, he turned to social media and does this to feed and clothe himself.  In his free time, he does… well… social media… and publishes the Extremely Average. He can be reached on Twitter or by carrier pigeon at the house with the big tree out front.

  • I do not have a problem. I can quit Twitter anytime I want to! Just because I check Twitter in the middle of the night doesn’t mean I am addicted. It means I am engaged.

    Just because I celebrated having 300 followers and am planning on having cake when I get to 500 doesn’t mean anything.

    I could stop if I wanted to. I just don’t want to! So there!

  • ExtremelyAvg

    @NancyD68 I think that if we all work together, on Twitter, and support each other, we will find a cure…or make it worse…

    Can one find a cure to SMSD using Social Media?

    I may need to ask Joseph Heller.

  • @NancyD68 I totally agree. The fact that my TweetDeck is working 24/7 and I am informed about every mention I get is just the convenience of being in touch with my fellow bloggers. The fact that I get upset when no one mentions me for hours is just a minor distraction, lol

  • ExtremelyAvg


    If you have a minute, could you go in and change the ‘knew’ to a ‘new’ in the last paragraph. This will haunt me for the next hundred years…or until I get distracted by some pastry items…ohhh..look…honey buns. Yummy.

  • @Brankica I agree. I check to see if people have mentioned me in the past few hours more times than I like to admit. I even made my bf sign up for Twitter so he could be follower #300! Is that mean?

  • Hi, my name is Lisa. I’ve tweeted in the bathroom at home so my husband wouldn’t know.

  • @Lisa Gerber if I had a dollar for every time I did that, I would have a huge stack of dollars!

  • KenMueller

    @Lisa Gerber dang. i do that. well, so my wife won’t know. I don’t have a husband…

  • JasonVerhoosky

    Hi my name is Jason and I have 3 facebook profiles, manage countless pages, carry more than a few twitter accounts, and have been known to fake bathroom emergencies to be able to check-in, pot and update in private.

    Please help me!

  • ExtremelyAvg

    @JasonVerhoosky Welcome Jason. Admitting you have a problem is the first step. I would reassure you that everything said here, stays here, but I see several of the members tweeting right now. Sorry. We are here to help.

  • ExtremelyAvg

    @Lisa Gerber I think we need to add “Tweets in Bathroom away from Spouce” to official symptoms. Thanks.

  • KaseyCrabtree

    @Lisa Gerber I do that all the time at my Dad’s house… then he always questions me “is everything ok?” when I come out of the bathroom…. as if I have some gastrointestinal distress. I just give him a weak smile and he doesn’t ask again!

  • KaseyCrabtree

    I especially like #4 – I feel so honored to have had brunch with Gini! 🙂

  • @KenMueller nancyd68 its so nice not to feel alone!

  • KDillabough

    @KaseyCrabtree #4 was my personal fave too…and so true!

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  • ExtremelyAvg

    Thanks for fixing my blunder Gini. Hug.

  • @ExtremelyAvg i fixed it. 🙂 but we both are sorry we missed it in the editing process.

  • MeriLizzie

    I have 4 Twitter apps on my iPhone in case one isn’t working. Of course I have my favorite. But you never know! I’m about to add some more *just in case*.



  • ExtremelyAvg

    @MeriLizzie merilizzie That reminds me of ‘Monk’ when he had a level, and a back up level, to check how level the level was. I think there may have also been a 3rd level, but I am not sure.

  • ginidietrich

    @KaseyCrabtree HAHAHAHA!

  • ginidietrich

    @JasonVerhoosky WHERE THE HECK HAVE YOU BEEN?!?!

  • ginidietrich

    @ExtremelyAvg I’ll take the hug anyway!

  • ginidietrich

    @NancyD68 LMAO!!

  • ginidietrich

    I don’t know what you people are talking about. I have no problem. I haven’t checked my Klout score in a whole week. Jeez.

  • ExtremelyAvg

    @ginidietrich It sounds like you have your SMSD under control, but it can flare back up on you at anytime, so be forewarned.

  • MeriLizzie

    @ExtremelyAvg Did I mention I have 3 Twitter accounts?

  • @ginidietrich now my bf says “what if we go away and there is no wi-fi?” Is it bad that I broke out in a cold sweat? I need to check Twitter! You guys would miss me!

  • ExtremelyAvg

    @ginidietrich No, you can keep it. I have an extra *Hug* for Lisa.

  • @ExtremelyAvg @ginidietrich yay!!!!

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  • @NancyD68 No, that is the right thing to do. He should have done it earlier. And I am going to have a serious talk to my husband about not being on Twitter and following me!!!

  • @NancyD68 @ginidietrich If he is a good bf he better not take you where there is no wi fi. I solved that problem by getting the hubby to provide Twitter friendly phone with non stop internet access and he had to promise not to take me anywhere where I would not have service 🙂

  • @ExtremelyAvg @JasonVerhoosky What do you mean he has a problem?? I see no problem here!

  • 3HatsComm

    @ginidietrich @NancyD68 ROTFLMAO.

  • 3HatsComm

    Confession of a dumbphone holdout.. no, now it’s contract hostage (aka upgrade ineligible): I WANT TO BE YOU.

    There, I typed it. I have smartphone and iPad and SMSD envy. I get ridiculed by family and friends anyway, for checking in on things via laptop.. having the phone may actually make it easier. My family won’t question more frequent trips to the bathroom, they already think I’m full of crap.

    Symptoms: 1. Yes. 2. No. I’m the family dork, don’t bother then w/ the social stuff as they so don’t care. However, they love me when they need tech support b/c the click one button to sync their iPhones is too complicated for them. 3. Not on this account. 4. Wait, Gini and Shonali are my celebrities. 5. Yes. And wish there was a chance they could be real. 6. Today no. A week ago yes, but think it inched up on half point. My day was complete. FWIW.

  • 3HatsComm

    @Brankica @NancyD68 @ginidietrich And I get big fat eyerolls from my sister, for insisting on WiFi when traveling. Then she wants the password for her iPhone.. hypocritical faker. 😉

  • NancyCawleyJean

    Of COURSE Gini is replacing any and all celebs, and #2 is a true sore spot — my family/friends just do not get it. Thank goodness for all you SMSD afflicted folks who do, and now we can tweet about it! Thank you, Brian, for such a fun post. 🙂

  • @Lisa Gerber LMAO!!!!

  • jennimacdonald

    I have to comment on being scared to death about being tagged in photos. I’m pretty sure Gini isn’t a fan of creating “Friend Lists” but this will totally eliminate that anxiety. I have friends lists and my privacy settings are set so only immediate friends can see photos that I am tagged in, because I did have that anxiety disorder once. I started becoming friends with clients on Facebook, and suddenly realized that my friends tag me in stupid photos and it might not come across as funny to everyone.

    Yes I too strive everyday to be like @ginidietrich , I’m even in the process of purchasing a road bike so I can totally take over her way of life. : ) Even considering getting Jack Bauer’s daughter!

  • Hello my name is Griddy and I’m only here cause some of my friends are and I want to show support.

    I am NOT addicted to Twitter – just because I check my frickin’ owl before my Gmail does NOT mean I’m addicted. I have complete self control much like my smoking. I can quit anytime and carrying a pack around at all times simply makes me an occasional social smoker much like an occasional social median!

    Oh, and having 989 fans on my FB page does not bother me at all – it’s not like having an even number like 1000 would make a difference or get me to do my happy dance and pop open a bottle of somethin! 😉

  • @GriddyThanks for the support then, because as you say, clearly you do not have a problem. LOL!

  • @Lisa Gerber THANK YOU! I’m glad you see that I don’t ;).

  • 3HatsComm

    @Griddy “social median” Discovered a new species! Love it, comes born with skinny thumbs, adapted for ultra-fast texting and tweeting on handheld devices. 🙂

  • 3HatsComm

    @jennimacdonald @ginidietrich Same. Have a few friends who don’t get why I might not want old college photos or recent cruise pictures tagged for the world to see. Not that I’m doing anything untoward in them.. just quietly reading a book, sipping iced tea I’m sure. But I’ve resorted to lists anyway, which hopefully hide them .. just in case of a bad hair day.

  • freie

    Add telephone, sms, computer games, blogging, football, book reading, tv and video, music, sports – in German we call this Freizeitstress – leisure time stress. It’s everywhere nowadays. People want to live multiple lives, and still have only one.

  • 3HatsComm

    @freie “multiple lives and still only have one.” I joke I don’t have enough time to do all the nothing I want (Calvin and Hobbes) so I totally relate. Hat tip for that, so very true.

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