My Social Media Avoidance Disorder?

Right off the bat, I have a few things that need to be made clear. First, Social Media Avoidance Disorder is not a real disorder per se, but there is increasing conversation about it falling under a larger condition called Avoidant Personality Disorder which encompasses a person’s tendency to shy away from social interaction.  Second, my title is in no way meant to belittle anyone who suffers from these disorders or any other disorders. Third, this blog is meant to set up my capstone learnings post at the end of the semester, but I also don’t feel as though my reasons for avoiding social media up to this point in my life are unique, so there are lessons for companies to learn from people like me to better reach their target consumers. I will come back to some of my takeaways at the end of my blog, but for now, here are the major reasons why I steered clear of social media prior to taking this class:

My Lack of Contribution to SM

Until this Fall, I felt like I did not have much value to add to social media. My perception of Twitter was that it was dominated by highly opinionated people sharing their position continually as events happened. I know enough about a lot of different topics, but I do not typically feel the need to broadcast my opinions, especially after seeing how quick people are to jump on others on Twitter. I saw Instagram as being a platform for everyone to post pictures of how exciting their lives were from trips to food to social gatherings and though I am completely happy with my life, I also am not one to take a ton of pictures in the moment and feel the need to share. That is also why I did not expect to contribute much on Snapchat or live-streaming video apps like Periscope and Meerkat. So, I failed to see what my overall value would be to social platforms.

SM’s Lack of Contribution to Me

For someone who did not use social media much, I assumed only the biggest newsworthy stories would pharrell-hat
be the ones that reach me. So, you can understand my confusion when I was seeing posts about a dress being black/blue vs. white/tan or how tacky Pharrell’s hat was at the Grammy’s. It was because of stories like these that I associated social media with popularizing the wrong type of news. Here you had an outlet that could reach people faster than ever before and more importantly could shape what the younger generations are talking about and it was amplifying pop culture stories. So, I found myself avoiding social media much in the way that I avoid TMZ or Keeping up with the Kardashians.

My Protest Against Phone Dependence

We all have been out with friends when the table suddenly turns silent as heads are down and engrossed in their phones. I despise these moments and I blamed social media for them. Yes, people were pretty bad about depending on their phones when they just had text messages or email to check, but social media apps took it to a whole other level. And with the introduction of push notifications for these apps, we now knew the second a new interaction has happened. Just sitting in classes, I can see how many notifications my neighbors are getting on their phones sitting out on the desks, and I cannot blame them for feeling the urgency to view them. Especially when people on the other side have the expectation that you will get back to them right away. So, I promised I would never let myself get that involved with my cell phone and avoided what I considered to be the root cause of this problem, social media.

My Fear of the Learning Curve

jimmy mcgintyOne of the best fictional coaches ever, Jimmy McGinty from The Replacements, says that “a real man admits his fears,” and so I have to share that one of my biggest deterrent from joining the social media craze was fear. I had created accounts in most social apps, but I only regularly have used my Facebook and LinkedIn profile. How was I going to learn to use Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and all the other up-and-coming platforms? Frankly, I did not feel like I had the time to invest in ramping up on how to use each either. My first day on Twitter for this class I was frozen by the sheer number of updated tweets that came in every minute, and I was following only a minimal amount of people/organizations at that time. So, it has been easy up to this point in my life to avoid social media out of fear.

As mentioned, I will update my perceptions on these deterrents in my next blog post as the final analysis of the class, but what can companies learn from hesitant consumers like me in the short term?

First, they can live by the principle of keeping communication simple to overcome the fear of beginning users. For most, posting on social media should not be about quantity, but about quality. A single post placed at the right time with the right message can do much more for a company than hourly updates. Just look at Oreo’s “You can still dunk in the dark,” which was thought to be more successful for the company then their TV ad during the same Super Bowl.

Second, companies can ensure that their content adds value to their customers. This begs brands to personalize messaging because what is relevant to me is likely not relevant to the person sitting next to me. Maybe I want to know what new product is coming out, while the person next to me wants to know if there are any coupons this week. We want personalized retargeted messages and implementing more of this will get new users to buy in.

Finally, companies need to authentically show that the average consumer’s voice matters. Social media is a tremendous tool to level the playing field, but companies need to broadcast how they listen or else people can end up feeling like they have no place on social platforms or have no call to action, like I originally felt. Of course, we have learned there is a line of power that consumers are willing to cross, but promoting the right change of course or plan of action, as Seamless does, can garner company advocates for life.

seamless SM


  1. Your point about “Protest Against Phone Dependence” couldn’t hit home more. Back in high school, I couldn’t stand how people would be on their phones, texting and on Facebook, in the middle of conversations with people right in front of them. But starting in college, I’ve been a part of the former group as well, although I consciously make an effort to curb my reliance and addiction to social media. The lines between reality and social media are really beginning to blur, and there’s definitely a lot of complications that social media brings forth, such as the phone dependance. But I think the key things to remember are as follows: 1) Everyone uses social media in different ways and in different amounts, so it truly is a tool for all people of all types and feeds upon humans’ intrinsic need to develop and maintain social relationships 2) It makes our lives a lot easier and the pros far outweigh the cons of staying out of the loop and 3) It is definitely here to stay, so I think delaying social media is possible, but at some point it may even become necessary!

  2. This is a great post, Matt. I had similar feelings before this class. I did not share much on social media platforms and had no interest in doing so, but I used platforms like Twitter primarily to consume content such as articles, sports updates, and news. I agree that sometimes social media can get people caught up in the wrong things, making something out of nothing, as well as cause people to jump on the bandwagon in support of a cause. Also, constant updates from social platforms can be overwhelming, especially for new users. The key is for all users to learn how to regulate their use and practice the proper etiquette. You make a great point that brands need to be aware of users who are wary of social media, and engage with customers accordingly. I tend not to follow brands with large quantities of tweets, especially if they are not relevant to me, so I also believe that the focus should be on quality over quantity, delivering micro-moments, like Sweetgreen. The brands that will be most successful going forward are those that listen to customers, respond when issues arise, and provide engaging content that is relevant to users.

  3. rebeccajin06 · ·

    Great post, Matt! What’s funny (or frightening) is that out of my friends, I would be considered the one who uses social media the least yet my usage is still way above the norm. Maybe compared to my friends I am the one with social media avoidance disorder but compared to people even 15 years ago who didn’t have smart phones, my dependence would still be shocking. I actively use Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn but after deleting my Snapchat almost a year ago, I also fear the learning curve you spoke about. In the last year Snapchat has added a ton of new features that I have absolutely no familiarity with and that makes me intimidated to reinstall the app. And that’s for me, a 20 year old college student with friends who live on Snapchat, so I can only imagine how older adults like my parents feel about adapting to new technologies. Social media has brought a lot of both good and bad to society but like everything else in life, I think moderation is what’s best. Thanks for sharing your reflective post with us!

  4. Great post Matt! I’m resonate with you on the fact that before this class me and social media had a very agnostic relation and we followed a live and let live ideology (with me poking occasional taunts at social media anytime someone had a gaffe). Nonetheless, we have to accept the fact the world has moved on to social media and we have to move on with it. Or we can be the old relatives that we all have who still cling to their ‘flip phones’. I think this class has definitely made me warm up to twitter and other platforms, and I can definitely see the advantages of being able to interact with companies in real time just as much as companies have of being able to interact with us. I’m sure m adoption of new social media platforms won’t be as fast as the newer generation but at least I’m willing to give some of them a try. Here’s to hoping we stick to it.

  5. I too share your feelings regarding social media use. I’ve had LinkedIn for many years because I was told back then that it was a great networking tool. I’ve had a Facebook page since my freshman year in college (almost ten years ago). Only recently (last year) I signed up for an Instagram account. However, that’s… it, really. Honestly, I don’t foresee myself holding onto my Twitter account past another three weeks, and I doubt that I will ever send a Snapchat. In many ways I remain “old school”. However, with that being said, I will readily admit that there is tremendous potential for businesses when it comes to social media use, as we’ve seen many times throughout this semester.

  6. Great post Matt, here’s my two cents on a topic that I relate to very well. I think life is all about balance, whether it’s in life, work, or social interactions, which all translate into how we use social media in our day to day life. I think it’s a great mechanism that can improve our quality of life by allowing us to keep in touch with people that we ordinarily would lose touch with. On the other hand, if we go overboard on Social Media, I feel like we devolve into the dependence on phones that you mentioned, and the quality of our day to day interactions drops. Then on the flip side of this, if you don’t use Social Media at all, I think you often miss out on things that will make you laugh, cry, and appreciate different aspects of life in many ways. So, at least in my own case, I really could not care less about the little 5 second moments my friends post on Snapchat, but I do love seeing inspiring videos on Facebook or trending news on Twitter. Social Media has a different role for everyone, but like I said, if we can balance it I think we are properly utilizing it for overall improvement in our lives.

  7. Thank you for your post. I agree with you wholeheartedly in regards to quality versus quantity. With a sea of user competing for attention you can become inundated with the same messaging. It goes back to the question of what creates virility and I have to say relevance is a primary factor, just like the Oreo commercial; the simplicity and it real-time relevance enhanced the authenticity of the message. I second @shapirobenjamin; it is a careful balance of not falling into the social media vacuum but being present enough to allow yourself access to information in a practical way.

  8. Matt, I’m a huge fan of the direction you took with this – and am excited to read your “capstone” blog. I completely agree with your hesitancy to post on social media- besides wishing people happy birthday, I really don’t understand what kind of content I can generate that is worth much of anything, and to be honest, even after having a twitter for almost six months! (time goes fast) I still don’t think it’s worth it. I feel like I put a lot of effort into the tweet, and then it ends up being 140 characters that don’t translate well long-term, become outdated fairly easily, or at least just become untrue given more information. I’ve always been wary about publishing anything, for this reason, and I feel like though my stint on social media has made me face that particular fear, it certainly hasn’t assuaged it.

  9. Matt, this is a great post that says exactly how I have felt about social media ever since I started using it. Though I suppose I’m a more active contributor on Facebook, (much of that is due to the fact that my family in Germany can live vicariously through FB, to a certain extent), I keep shying away from other platforms where I don’t feel like I have anything of value to contribute. I know I will never use Snapchat, Twitter is overwhelming, Instagram is too artsy-fartsy, Pinterest feels hyperactive, and on and on it goes. Every now and then I vow to myself to try to get better, and maybe your final blog post will help me with that.
    I also really liked the takeaways you offered for brands; quality over quantity is definitely where they can shine. So thanks for a really nice post that truly resonated with how I feel about SM.

  10. Great post. I appreciated your honest self analysis, and then the switch to “what do companies do with people like me.” I suspect that the vast majority of the population are more like you than heavy social media users.

  11. Really thoughtful post, Matt — looking forward to reading your final post. I like that you switched your self-analysis over to pointers for marketers’ benefit — ironically, I think that indicates the value your post brings to others which is at odds with your first statement. I’m curious if your participation in writing/reading blogs has given you a social media space that you feel tailors more closely to your social preferences? Your blogs and class participation has always been very thoughtful and thorough and I’ve found that blogs are a great space for people who like to put a little more review into their postings.

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