From a little light googling, it would appear that ‘Social Paranoia’ is not a thing. Although social anxiety has been linked with paranoia. It is, however, certainly a thing for me, and I expect also for others with social anxiety and other types of anxiety and paranoia.
Social anxiety and paranoia are friends. They support each other, bolster each other, give each other energy – which is lovely for them, but not so much for me. In social situations, I am aware (or feel like I am) of every nuance of speech and action. By ‘aware,’ I don’t mean ‘able to correctly interpret,’ but my socially anxious/paranoid mind goes ahead and interprets them anyway.
Why did that person just look at me (in that way)? Do they hate me? Did I do something weird or socially inappropriate? Did I just say something weird or socially inappropriate? Am I talking too much/not enough? Have I inadvertently looked at them in a weird way, which has made them think I hate them?
And then, of course, through being social anxious and paranoid (‘socially paranoid’), and probably a little spectrum-y in respect of social appropriateness, I am more likely to do weird or socially inappropriate things. Which creates a vicious circle.
People say to me things like…
You shouldn’t think about things so much.
You shouldn’t care what people think.
But social paranoia is my default. Overthinking and caring what people think is my default.
But I’m working on it.
All of this, of course, translates into the social media sphere. I find myself engaging in this kind of thing:
Why has no one ‘liked’ my post? Why has no one commented on my post? If someone has ‘liked’ what I have said, do they really mean it or are they merely acknowledging they have read it but have no particular opinion about it? Why has that person not responded to my private message, or why have they only responded in a certain way?
I can tell myself there are reasonable, logical reasons for all of the above. Likely reasons. But the paranoid person deals in possibilities, not likelihoods. If there’s a chance, even a small one, that my socially paranoid mind can interpret someone’s response or lack of in a negative way, then by golly, it will do so!
But I’m working on it.
On the flip side of this coin is my need for self-validation. Like me! Love me! Accept me! Approve of me! – all that kind of stuff. The problem being that, while I need to be validated, my social paranoia precludes this from happening. People may say they like/love/accept/approve of me, but since no one knows what anyone else really thinks or feels, they can be lying; at best, to save my feelings; at worst, to make fun of me. Best, then, to avoid seeking validation altogether.
I am working on all of the above.
Writing helps. Analysing, creatively expressing… and I hope that anyone reading what I write, who may feel similar things, can positively self-reflect.
Mindfulness also helps at keeping me grounded and going some way towards keeping those intrusive thoughts at bay.
And sharing is good. Also learning, clarifying, getting positive feedback (and believing it!), training myself to be positive or at least realistic, and pouring the vast wealth of knowledge that is the Internet into my mind. Or at least some of it.
I’ll leave you with some of that knowledge:
Some stuff on paranoia and (social) anxiety:
‘How Not to Worry About What Others Think of You’:
An interesting and amusing article about autism and ‘appropriateness’: