Data Science Research on Social Anxiety
Social media has become so embedded in our lives that people are on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or Tik Tok everywhere they go. Data has shown that teens spend more than 5 hours a day on social media. This poses the question of is this affecting society? If so, how is it affecting society?
It is said that frequent use of social media is linked to increased amounts of anxiety. One hypothesis is that this is the result of social media breeding comparisons of lifestyles, and it is commonly said that comparison is the thief of joy.
This is an important problem most people face every day, so I decided to dig a little deeper into the following topics:
- How much time are people spending online?
- Who is spending the most time online?
- What is the range of anxiety levels across online users?
The data collector placed QR codes to a google form survey at a bus stop within blocks of several college campuses in Malaysia. He collected 93 responses in one month. Participants were asked the following questions:
- How many hours per day do you spend on social media?
- How do you feel about being the center of attention?
- Working while being observed?
- Talking face to face with someone you don't know very well?
- Expressing disagreement or disapproval to someone you don't know very well?
- Are you extremely conscious of your actions when in social settings because you fear they might offend someone, or you could be rejected?
- Do you feel anxious or panicky before social situations?
Participants rated their anxiety levels from 1 (very comfortable) to 5 (very uncomfortable).
1. Anxiety Levels
Before looking into more specifics of this data, I wanted to look at the anxiety levels of the entire population of this data. Because the x-axis does not begin at zero, it is clear that at some level everyone is experiencing anxiety.
On average most people are feeling level 3 to 5 levels of anxiety, which are on the higher end of the scale.
2. Social Media Use
What pops out immediately is that the largest group of individuals of both genders use social media for more than 5 hours per day!
Even more alarming, is the jump between all the female groups to females who spend more than 5 hours a day on social media. The number of females who are online more than 5 hours a day is more than double of all other categories.
This is alarming because a significant portion of their day is spent online.
3. Making connections
When combining the information from the two graphs above, we can see that both males and females have a positive correlation between their anxiety levels and time spent on social media. However, for females, the correlation is stronger, which connects to the graphs above that show they are spending more time online.
4. Focusing on Females
To pinpoint individuals who are most affected by social media use, let's look closer at the females and how their experiences.
Immediately, we see some good news that anxiety levels are decreasing with age. This can be due to many factors, but when compared to social media use, their usage decreases from ages 21 - 40.
However, the time the 21- to 30-year-old age group is on social media at an extremely high frequency which connects to their age group experiencing higher anxiety levels.
The trend of the middle age group being on the higher end of the anxiety scale continues when looking at anxiety levels before and during social events.
We also see here that in all of the groups, anxiety levels increase during social events.
The power of analyzing data comes in demonstrating its importance to others.
Because this data was taken in a college town, one possible stakeholder interested in this data are the college and university administrators. Universities can benefit both socially and financially.
Socially, it would improve the reputation of the school if students were less anxious and enjoying their time there. This has the ripple effect of possibly improving test scores because less general anxiety would help with test-taking.
Financially, if students are happy at the establishment, they are more likely to stay which will improve retention year over year. The more students that stay will also improve the reputation of the school potentially leading to a growth in student enrollment.
Takeaways and Application
- Social anxiety has a positive correlation with the amount of time spent on social media
- Social anxiety decreases with age
- Actual anxiety endured during social events is more than the anxiety anticipating the event
- Female social media users between the ages of 21-30 are at the highest risk of social anxiety
As an administrator, if they can reach the people who are the most anxiety-prone, those who have less anxiety can still benefit from those techniques. Administrators can:
- Offer more social events for lower classmen, since it is shown younger participants experience more anxiety
- During social events, create an environment with specific elements that decrease anxiety
- Organize regular social events to offer alternative socializing options
- Create campaigns to promote fewer social media use
This research is a great start, but can be improved by some of the following projects:
- Use the same questions on a different sample to compare results
- Test if the results are consistent with this group
- Have a larger sample size to make the research more statistically sound
- Deeper analysis of male social anxiety
- How closely does to follow the same trend as females
- Research on female interaction patterns
- Could aid in tailoring social events to decrease anxiety
Thank you for taking the time to read about my project! Please leave a comment or question below with your thoughts and ideas.
For more, feel welcome to connect with me on LinkedIn!
The skills I demoed here can be learned through taking Data Science with Machine Learning bootcamp with NYC Data Science Academy.
Data Set: https://www.kaggle.com/datasets/carlsonhoo/university-social-anxiety-survey
Social Anxiety Information:
Higuera, Valencia. “Social Anxiety Disorder: Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 3 Sept. 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/social-phobia#:~:text=Social%20anxiety%20disorder%2C%20sometimes%20referred,judged%20or%20scrutinized%20by%20others.
Testing Anxiety Information:
“Test Anxiety.” Learning Center, 30 Sept. 2021, https://learningcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/tackling-test-anxiety/#:~:text=Test%20anxiety%20is%20a%20combination,a%20number%20of%20difference%20reasons.