Managing Guilt Online

It’s really easy to unintentionally hurt people’s feelings online. We may not even know we’re doing it, and it’s impossible to predict how people who follow us may respond, but everything online is going to cause some sort of reaction, no matter how big or small.

It’s easy to dismiss what seems like the overexagerrating and the dramatics of adolescents and how they feel about social media. However, for them, it’s easy for them to worry about how people, whether specific people or people as a whole, are going to react to the kind of content they post, especially given how often they post. And while thinking about how audiences will respond to social media posts is incredibly common, those with anxiety may experience this worry on another level. This is due to the tendency for those with anxiety to “mind read,” or basing their actions and emotions in response to how they think people are going to react to something they do that hasn’t even happened yet.

Mind-reading can thus lead to more intensive, particularly negative feelings as those with anxiety go online and look at their profiles and see how they post, or what they plan to post. One of these feelings is guilt, where they may feel bad if they post something that might be taken as controversial, feel that it could be triggering to someone, or make them experience some level of being left out if your child posts about hanging out with someone else, even if they don’t know them that well.

If your child does find themselves feeling guilty about potentially or after posting something, have them take the time to ask themselves if there’s anyone specific that they’re worried about upsetting and what their relationship is like with them. Do they talk to them often? Is this someone they care about? What is the item that they’re considering posting that is causing these guilty feelings? If it’s something they care a lot about, but think that it might upset people, they can consider adding trigger or content warnings. Even if the item has already been posted, there’s also nothing wrong with editing it, adding a follow-up post, or even going back to delete it if the guilt feels particularly heavy.

Social media is always hit-or-miss in regards to how people react. It’s important that your child’s profile represents them, but they should remember that others can see it too, and if that’s going to affect how they post and feel, it’s important to keep these questions in mind.

How often is your child on social media? Have they ever been upset while on it? Have you discussed with them why?

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