Overcoming Online Anxiety

Who would have thought that you could even get social anxiety on the net? I’m here to tell you that many people do! And I was one of them. Three years ago I would never join a forum or a chatroom, even to see my name on the members list was scary. I was absolutely terrified the first time I posted a message on a forum.

My heart pounded and I was trembling!! My mind went over what I had written and what people would say or think for the rest of the night and I had trouble getting to sleep. When I try to pinpoint the fear, it was letting people know about me, that I existed. As somehow I thought I was not ok. Even though people wouldn’t know me from a bar of soap, I still had a huge fear of rejection. 

I made my first step on a site called Social Phobia World. I told people that I was 29, I had social phobia, I had never worked, never had a boyfriend, don’t have any friends, can’t use the phone and more. And after all that anxiety I found out that there were others like me and they wouldn’t judge me. I found out that I could actually have a conversation with people, using messenger programs and chatrooms.

I think that these online ways of communicating are a great form of practice for those with social anxiety to make a start in talking to people and being known. That’s not to say that you use it as a substitute for real life relationships and being in the real world. It is however a way to start voicing your opinions and being around people, even if they are virtual!

The best part of overcoming my online anxiety was that through that website I made some very good friends and I met the man I am now engaged to. I still have my fears about what people think and what to say, the difference now is that I “feel the fear and do it anyway”!!

Steps to Overcoming Online Anxiety

Like any other fear, the way to conquer online anxiety is to face it step by step. A gradual exposure may go something like this (when joining a social anxiety forum for example):

  • Join a forum, read other people’s posts and see what they write.
  • There is often an introductions section where you can say Hi for the first time.
  • Try answering another person’s post and give your opinion or advice.
  • Start your own post asking for advice.
  • Join a chatroom and read.
  • If people ask you questions, answer them; eg, how are you? I’m fine.
  • Try asking other people questions, eg, How are you?
  • Try sending someone a private message.

Repeat each stage until you feel comfortable with it and then move on. This is the way I gradually reduced my fear online. I hope this is of help to someone out there!

Read more at: http://theanxietyblog.wordpress.com/2007/08/06/overcoming-online-anxiety/.

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