The act of meeting people and forging connections has been important all throughout history, helping to expand both personal and professional social circles, and the era of technology has made it all the more possible. Websites like Facebook and Twitter and apps such as Snapchat and Instagram exist solely to project the individual’s best version out into the world, exposing them to others that are doing the same. However, these platforms allow you to hide behind a screen while forging connections, providing a sense of security to those who have anxiety. They allow their users to reap the benefits of interactions without the social stress. The same can not be said for in-person networking events, an occasion where low-risk opportunities can often become a high-stress situation for those with anxiety.
People with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), or social phobia, have extreme fear and anxiety related to social environments, often to the point where it affects their daily lives (Social anxiety disorder (social phobia), 2017). This fear usually stems from the belief that others are scrutinizing their actions and behaviors, making the individual self-conscious and likely to alter their daily life patterns in an effort to get away from that perceived judgment (Social anxiety disorder, n.d.). People with SAD might avoid meeting new people, speaking up in class, talking on the phone, interacting with authority figures, or trying to do new things in public (Smith et al., n.d.).
People free of any anxiety symptoms will grasp networking opportunities to build connections, gain interviews for jobs or internships, or make a positive impression on their colleagues. This does not apply to those with SAD. The attitude of people who suffer from SAD when they are thrown into situations involving networking dominates the situation. Specifically, their first response is to avoid it, and if that isn’t a viable option, to stress, overthink the situation, and eventually blow it (Social anxiety disorder, n.d.). Neither alternative is ideal for leaving a good impression on those around you, which is what networking is meant to do.
If the individual chooses to avoid networking events, they lose out on the opportunity to explicitly make connections and move forward in their professional life. Other opportunities will come, but in fields where personal connections and credibility are of paramount importance, this will be a significant setback. If they do choose to attend, the situation won’t be that much better. The alternative is just as bleak.
When forced to deal with social situations they find stressful, individuals might experience increased heart rate, blushing, sweating, nausea, dizziness, and muscle tension (Social anxiety disorder (social phobia), 2017). These symptoms, just a few of the plethora associated with SAD, dramatically decrease performance quality in social situations and interactions. Keeping that in mind, it’s fair to assume that people won’t perform to the best of their ability, if not highlight negative traits or qualities instead of showcasing positive ones. Add to that the additional stress that comes from an event being mandatory or important for a career, it’s easy to see how these events do more harm than good to people with SAD.
Simply put, the implied-mandatory nature of these events, and the importance they hold, negatively affects people with SAD. SAD affects approximately 15 million people, a big enough number for companies to be mindful of (Social anxiety disorder, n.d.). This isn’t something that can be brushed under the rug, especially as workplaces increasingly hold these events. College alone emphasizes the importance of networking: advisors urge students to attend a plethora of events meant for their majors, where companies or individuals from any area of study will be there to offer advice or a job. While college is more lowstakes than a professional setting, it is the beginning of a long period of time in which individuals will be expected to attend these events.
Smith, M., Segal, J., & Shubin, J. (n.d.). Social anxiety disorder. Retrieved March 07, 2021, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder.htm
Social anxiety disorder (social phobia). (2017, August 29). Retrieved March 07, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-disorder/symptoms- causes/syc-20353561
Social anxiety disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved March 07, 2021, from https://adaa.org/understanding- anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder