Social media is one of the most widespread phenomena of the technological age. It has been instrumental in bringing the world together and disseminating information.
However, social media has also received criticism due to a growing list of ways that it can impact a person’s health. Here are three areas — your mind, your body, and your social life — where an addiction to social media can hurt you the most.
The number one concern with most social media activity is mental health. This is due to multiple ways that too much social networking can impact an individual’s quality of life.
Social media is rife with comparison and “one-upping” behavior. Many tend to treat their social media profiles as an opportunity to show off the best aspects of their life. This creates a vicious cycle of jealousy and competition with others.
On top of that, the continual stream of negative content that often filters through social media feeds and comment sections can be mentally exhausting. This has been connected to triggers of sadness, depression, and anxiety — all of which can hurt your well-being.
While discussing mental health, it’s important to consider the tangential effects that social media can have on your life, too. For instance, if using social media aggravates depression or mood swings in an individual, they may need to take action to address the issue.
This can lead to the need to take mood-stabilizing medications. These can be expensive at times, adding financial pressure into the mix. Even if they’re covered by insurance, they can have other adverse side effects on the physical body. They can also lead to struggles when it comes time to change or get off of a prescription, as is the case with Lamictal withdrawal. While mental health itself is important, it’s also wise to keep the big picture impact of social media’s mental strains in perspective, too.
Social media is also well-known for its ability to stroke fears of missing out as summed up in the term FOMO. As users engage with others and see what they are doing, they struggle with the concern that they are missing something. This adds to their general level of anxiety.
Opposite FOMO is cyberbullying. Many interactions online tend to bring out unfiltered and visceral responses, which are often cloaked in — and by extension intensified by — anonymity. These can spiral into full-fledged episodes of cyberbullying, which impact self-esteem, depression, and other aspects of mental health.
Social media also has a tendency to increase the amount of time that you spend using technology. This can feed into a variety of physical health concerns, particularly in younger children and teenagers who are still in critical stages of development.
Social media doesn’t always equate to less exercise. In fact, one study found that physically active students who used social media often tended to exercise daily.
However, the same study found that sedentary students who frequented social networks struggled to get exercise. In other words, social media had the effect of exacerbating pre-existing sedentary behavior.
The above-referenced study also found that daily social media use often impacted sleep. Particularly those who already got adequate sleep found that daily social media use hampered their slumber.
Once again, the study countered this with the fact that those who were often sleep deprived actually got better sleep. However, the fact still stands that social media interferes with anyone who is already getting appropriate rest. And that doesn’t even touch on the fact that blue light from screens is often associated with disrupted sleep, as well.
Social media can also have a direct impact on individual areas of the body. For instance, the additional time spent hunched over a phone or sitting at a computer desk can hurt your neck and spine.
In addition, eyestrain is a serious concern. The growing quantity of hours that are spent in front of screens is becoming a serious problem. Consistent social media usage only worsens this problem and opens up individuals to things like dry eye symptoms and blurred vision.
Social media can have a detrimental effect on your social life. It’s ironic, considering the fact that social media is, by its very essence, a social activity.
However, utilizing social networks on a computer or mobile device does not translate to positive social interactions in every situation. On the contrary, there are many ways that social media can hurt your social life, as well.
Using social media is an individual and isolating activity. Interactions may take place with others online, but in reality, the user is often alone as they use their social media accounts.
Even if they’re in the company of others, using social media has the negative effect of creating an isolating “bubble.” It isn’t difficult to see how this kind of behavior would cause in-person interactions and relationships to atrophy over time.
Social media also has the unwanted effect of removing social filters for many individuals. Traditionally, a well-rounded person develops the ability to exercise critical social skills like empathy, emotional intelligence, and active listening.
Often, these abilities tarnish during extended periods of time spent on social networks. Internally filtering statements and listening to and validating the opinions of others is too easily lost in the dregs of social media comments sections.
There are many ways that social media can have a negative influence on your life. From mental and physical health to social concerns, critical areas of life can suffer when you let the need for social media get out of hand.
Fortunately, you don’t need to quit social media to scale back on an addiction. Instead, take steps to consider why you use social media. Then look for ways to build better social media habits in the name of your mind, body, and social life.