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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 51-56

A cross-sectional survey of social media anxiety among students of university of Nigeria


Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacy Management, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, PMB, Enugu State, Nigeria

Date of Web Publication4-Jun-2020

Correspondence Address:
Adaobi Uchenna Mosanya
Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacy Management,University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State
Nigeria
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jmhhb.jmhhb_64_19

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  Abstract 


Background: Social media anxiety has been on the rise globally. There is sparse literature on the association between social media and anxiety. Most of the available data originate from high-income countries. This is the first attempt to assess social media anxiety among undergraduate students in an African country. Materials and Methods: We employed a cross-sectional and descriptive method for this study. The Social Anxiety Scale for Social Media Users was the data collection tool used to assess the levels of social media anxiety among undergraduate students of the University of Nigeria. Data were analyzed with SPSS Version 20.0. Both inferential and descriptive statistics were used. Results: A total of 228 out of the 380 questionnaires distributed were filled and returned (60% response rate). Social media usage was highest for WhatsApp (4.4 ± 0.902). The mean social media anxiety score was 68.75 ± 12.35. The prevalence was higher in females (69.00 ± 12.59) than males (68.42 ± 12.06), but the difference had no statistical significance (t = −0.356, P = 0.864). There was a negative nonsignificant association between social media usage and social media anxiety (r = −0.051, P = 0.4450). Conclusion: There was no significant association between social media usage and social media anxiety among the students surveyed. Longitudinal studies are necessary to investigate whether social media use is a causal risk factor for anxiety symptoms and anxiety-related disorders.

Keywords: Africa, Nigeria, social media anxiety disorder, social media platforms, undergraduate students


How to cite this article:
Aluh DO, Chukwuobasi T, Mosanya AU. A cross-sectional survey of social media anxiety among students of university of Nigeria. J Mental Health Hum Behav 2019;24:51-6

How to cite this URL:
Aluh DO, Chukwuobasi T, Mosanya AU. A cross-sectional survey of social media anxiety among students of university of Nigeria. J Mental Health Hum Behav [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Jul 10];24:51-6. Available from: http://www.jmhhb.org/text.asp?2019/24/1/51/285997




  Introduction Top


Anxiety is currently the second most burdensome psychiatric disorder, with the burden peaking at early adulthood.[1] Disability caused by anxiety disorders has been reported to be akin to chronic physical ailments such as arthritis, hypertension, and diabetes; anxiety disorders usually occur earlier in life and, consequently, have a longer duration of disability.[2] Social anxiety has been defined as “a type of anxiety-related problem resulting from when people are fearful or anxious when interacting with or being negatively evaluated and scrutinized by other people during social interactions in a social setting.”[3] Social media anxiety may thus be defined as social anxiety associated with social media use and has four domains: self-evaluation anxiety, interaction anxiety (IA), privacy concern anxiety, and shared content anxiety.[4] Social media refers to computer-mediated technology that allows one to create and share information and other forms of expression though virtual communities (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).[5] The increased popularity of social media platforms among adolescents and young adults is not without associated risks, one of which is social media anxiety.

Social media offers a safe place where socially anxious individuals can avoid face-to-face interactions; however, it may also contribute to problematic use and exacerbate the avoidance of offline communications. A quantitative meta-analysis of 22 studies and 13,460 participants found a positive correlation between social anxiety and feeling comfortable online; hence, the anonymity of the Internet makes it an attractive venue.[6] Another study showed that socially anxious individuals tend to self-disclose more in online than offline settings.[7] This correlates with research showing individuals with higher social anxiety view online communication to be significantly less threatening than face-to-face interactions.[7],[8] Therefore, online communication may be a way of avoiding interactions that take place offline. In a study among adolescents aged 11–17, it was found that social media use was positively correlated with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and poor sleep quality.[9] In that study, adolescents who had an emotional investment in social media were at an increased risk for anxiety and depression due to feeling isolated and distressed when they were not on social media.

However, studies over time have revealed contradictory evidence on the relationship between social media use and mental disorders.[10],[11] While it has been argued that social media may have a protective effect against mental disorders because they support and enable social interaction and connection,[12] it also provide many opportunities for miscommunications and mismanaged expectations, which can become exaggerated and leave individuals feeling a greater sense of isolation.[10],[13] Social media use may have a negative effect on mental health by exposing individuals to negative social interactions such as cyberbullying.[10] In a study among 881 Dutch adolescents on friend networking site, it was found that negative interaction quality was associated with decreases in self-esteem and life satisfaction.[14] The relationships and interactions between social media users, their emotional experience, and the Internet may be complex and may emphasize differences between those who are doing well in life and those who are struggling.[15] Some studies have found that increased time spent on social media and use of multiple platform use were associated with both depression and anxiety.[16],[17],[18] However, other studies have found no association between increased daily time spent on Facebook and depression.[19],[20],[21] A research study among 1730 US adults aged 18–32 years demonstrated that the association between social media usage and depression and anxiety may be more indicative of personal experience than the volume of social media usage.[22] The authors surmise that how one feels about or experiences social media is perhaps a more salient indicator of the effect of social media on an individual than simply the quantity of consumption or exposure to social media. A recent systematic review of 13 studies involving 21,231 participants raised concerns about the cross-sectional nature of most studies on the relationship between social media and mood disorders, which limits the ability to determine a causal relationship between the two.[23]

Considering the increasing use of social media among university students, it is necessary to assess their social anxiety as a result of the use of social media platforms because social anxiety can affect social interaction in social media.[4] There is sparse literature on the association between social media and anxiety. Most of the available data originate from high-income countries.[24] The present study sought to identify the most frequently used social media platforms and distinct social media use patterns in a sample of university students and to assess the associations between these patterns of social media use and social media anxiety.


  Materials and Methods Top


Ethics

Ethical clearance for the study was obtained from the National Health Research Ethical Committee of the university. A cover letter was attached to the survey instrument, which informed the respondents the purpose of the survey and assured them of confidentiality and anonymity.

Study design

We employed a cross-sectional, descriptive method for this study among undergraduate students of a Nigerian university, founded in 1960 and boasts of having students with diverse ethnicities and backgrounds. The population of the undergraduates in 2018 was 28,047; with 0.5% margin of error at 95% confidence interval, the sample size was calculated to be 379 by the Raosoft sample size calculator.[25] Students who were willing to take part in the survey were conveniently sampled in their different faculties. A total of 380 self-administered questionnaires were given out. The Social Anxiety Scale for Social Media Users (SAS-SMU),[4] which is a data collection tool to assess the levels of social anxiety experienced by university students while using social media platforms, was used in the present study. The SAS-SMU has a Cronbach's alpha coefficient for the different domains ranging from 0.80 to 0.92, demonstrating a good reliability. The 35-item instrument used in this study has three main sections. The first part solicits information on respondents' gender, age, department, and education level. In the second part, respondents were asked questions on how often they used selected social media platforms on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 – never to 5 – always. The third part assessed social anxiety by items on shared content anxiety, privacy concern anxiety (PCA), IA, and self-evaluation anxiety on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 – strongly disagree to 5 – strongly agree. The questionnaire was pretested using 15 pharmacy students and had good internal consistency with a Cronbach's alpha of 0.87. The data obtained during the pretest were not included in the study data.

Statistics

Data were analyzed with IBM Statistical Product and Services Solution (SPSS) for Windows, Version 21.0 (IBM Corp, Armonk, NY, USA). The data obtained were characterized using means and standard deviation as the descriptive statistics. The association between social media usage and social media anxiety was determined using Pearson's correlation with statistical significance set at P < 0.05. Independent sample t-test was used to compare means of social media usage and social media anxiety scores between genders. Sociodemographic variables were presented as frequencies and percentages.


  Results Top


Sociodemographics of the students

A total of 228 out of the 380 questionnaires distributed were filled and returned (60% response rate). There were more female respondents in the present study (57%, n = 130). Almost three-quarters were within 18–24 years' age bracket (71.5%, n = 163). The respondents were mostly in their 4th year of study (29.8%, n = 68) and from the faculty of pharmaceutical sciences (54.4%, n = 124) [Table 1].
Table 1: Sociodemographic variables

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Social media usage

Social media usage was higher in females (35.02 ± 5.04) than males (34.58 ± 6.01), but did not reach statistical significance (t = −0.603, P = 0.314). Social media usage was highest for WhatsApp (4.4 ± 0.902). Skype and LinkedIn were the least frequently used social media platforms by the respondents (1.4 ± 0.646 and 1.4 ± 0.805, respectively) [Table 2]. Females used WhatsApp more frequently compared to males, and this difference was statistically significant (t = −2.042, P = 0.042). Conversely, males used the Twitter app more frequently than females (t = 3.603, P ≤ 0.001) [Table 5].
Table 2: Social media utility

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Table 3: Social media anxiety

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Table 4: Correlation between social media usage and social media anxiety correlations

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Table 5: Gender differences in social media usage and social media anxiety

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Social media anxiety

The mean social media anxiety score was 68.75 ± 12.35 [Table 3]. Respondents who had social media anxiety scores greater than the mean score of 68.75 were categorized as having social media anxiety, whereas those with scores lower than that were regarded as not having social media anxiety. More than half of the students (55.7%, n = 127) had social media anxiety. Social media anxiety was higher in females (69.00 ± 12.59) than males (68.42 ± 12.06), but did not reach statistical significance (t = −0.356, P = 0.864). The association between social media usage and social media anxiety (r = −0.051, P = 0.4450) was negative and nonsignificant. Social media usage had a negative association with all the domains except IA where the association was positive (r = 0.001, P = 0.994) [Table 4].


  Discussion Top


The ubiquitous use of social media has led to research studies on its psychological implications. This is the first attempt to assess social anxiety resulting from social media use in an African country. The study employed the use of a validated specific questionnaire to assess social media anxiety among university students.[4] There was a female predominance in the current study. This is in contrast to findings from a study to assess the prevalence of social anxiety among Nigerian university students where there were a high number of male respondents compared to female respondents.[26] However, a previous research among university students globally has shown response rates to vary by gender, with females being more likely to respond than males.[27],[28] The students were mostly within the age bracket of 18–24 years and were in their 4th-year academic level. This is because of the 6-3-3-4 system of education operational in Nigeria, with the minimum age of admission into the public universities being 16 years.[29]

Globally, social media use has steadily increased, and the most frequent users are reported to be young adults between 18 and 29 years of age.[30] The most frequently used social media platforms in this study were WhatsApp and Facebook. This finding concurs with the current literature on the use of social media among students in Nigerian tertiary institutions.[31],[32] This is, however, in contrast with findings from a study among college students in the USA where Instagram and Snapchat were the most commonly used social media platforms.[33] Apart from being the most popular messaging App in Africa,[34] WhatsApp is particularly popular among students because of the ease of use and ability to create class forums and study groups where information and educational materials may be disseminated among members. Skype and LinkedIn were the least frequently used social media networks probably because the respondents were students who were yet to build a career and may be less concerned about building a professional profile.

Social media usage was higher among females. This is in concordance with the available data on gender differences in social media use.[35] In a recent study among students in the UAE, males were more addicted to the Internet than females. Females, however, reported a higher negative impact of social media on their academic performance.[36] The prevalence of social media anxiety in this study was 55.7%. Social media anxiety may negatively impact on young people's academic achievement, sleep patterns, and social interactions.[37] Social media anxiety was higher among females than males. This is slightly similar to the results from a study among Turkish students where females were significantly more social media anxious than males in two domains, namely IA and the PCA. Although previous studies have shown that females have shown greater social anxiety related to internet use,[38] recent studies have, however, shown no significant difference in anxiety levels between males and females.[39],[40] It has been postulated that improved educational opportunities and leadership roles for women have made women bolder and consequently eliminated the gap in social anxiety levels between males and females.[40]

In this study, there was a nonsignificant negative association between social media usage and social media anxiety. The study findings agree with the results of a study carried out among Pakistani students where no significant relationship was found between social anxiety and Facebook usage.[10] Another study carried out in the USA found no relationship between Facebook use frequency and ratings of worry in a small sample of young adults.[2] On the other hand, studies across the globe have found significant positive associations between social media usage and social anxiety.[12],[21] This positive correlation may be explained by the social compensation hypothesis which proposes that individuals use online social networking sites to compensate for deficits in social skills or discomfort in face-to-face situations.[11]

Social media usage had a nonsignificant positive association with IA and PCA in this study, while shared content anxiety and self-evaluation anxiety, had nonsignificant negative associations with social media usage. This is in contrast with findings from a study among 216 adults where social media usage had significant positive correlations with self-evaluation anxiety and IA.[41]


  Conclusion Top


In conclusion, there was no significant correlation between social media usage and social anxiety. Whatsapp was the most frequently used social media platform among the university students surveyed. Longitudinal studies are necessary to investigate whether social media use is a causal risk factor for anxiety symptoms and anxiety-related disorders.

Strengths and limitations

This study has contributed to the sparse literature available on social anxiety in social media. Investigations regarding this issue are scarce from low- and middle-income countries, and this is the first from an African country. Additional strengths include the use of a standard well-validated measure specific for social media anxiety. However, the cross-sectional design may limit the conclusions about causality. The exact number of hours spent on social media platforms and the possible influence of preexisting anxiety disorders on social media anxiety in the students sampled were not captured in the present study. The convenience sampling, the small sample size, and the self-reporting nature of the study instrument are other limitations that may affect the generalizability of our study findings.

Interpretations and implications

More than half of the students surveyed had social media anxiety. There was no significant association between social media use and social media anxiety among the undergraduate students surveyed. The results from this study are expected to pave the way for more research on social media usage and associated anxiety in African settings. It is also expected to guide strategies on preventing and reducing social media anxiety levels of social media users.

Future research directions

Longitudinal studies are necessary to investigate whether social media use is a causal risk factor for anxiety symptoms and anxiety-related disorders and to assess the impact of anxiety on social media use. Another possible area for further research is to explore the effect of personality types and childhood influences as risk factors for developing social media anxiety. In addition, research on more reliable methods to measure social media usage and the impact of social anxiety on different indices such as relationships and academic performance should be carried out.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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