We spend an average of 8 hours/day consuming media. And the reality is, the continuous scroll of award show memes, targeted political articles and friend’s #foodporn photos are indeed affecting our health.
But how is one to know when to engage and when to unplug?
If social media is the ‘cigarette’ of this generation, it may very well be that we’ll one day have a similar awakening as when our grandparents found out that doctors had recalled their recommendation of “a pack a day.” Or do we already know the negative effects that non-stop social media and digital interaction are having on our health, and we simply don’t care?
And with that, we are taking it to the ring.
Round 1: social media cons
Round 2: social media pros
Without further ado, the top 3 ways social media is negatively affecting our health:
- It is highly addictive and can feed social anxiety
We spend so much time communicating through apps, comments and text messages that we are missing out on finer communication aspects such as tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. One study revealed that excess social media usage can trigger one’s fear of being alone as much as it increases anxiety levels for those who are actively engaged in conversation with others. Are the platforms intended to connect us actually isolating us in ways we’ve never before experienced?
- It can affect our self-esteem with the constant comparison game
Not only is FOMO is now an internationally-recognized word, but as the name implies, the constant Fear Of Missing Out that social media has a way of inciting in its users plagues our confidence, our self-esteem and our decision making. We are more in-tune than ever of each and every vacation, party, celebration and conversation we were not invited to, or worse, that we don’t have going on in our own lives. We see the high-highs and the low-lows of those we “friend” or “follow,” but do we really know these people? Research has shown that one in three people surveyed felt worse (lonely, frustrated or angry) after spending time on Facebook, often due to perceived inadequacies when comparing themselves to friends. One word: yikes.
- It decreases your productivity
This is not only true if you are a habitual Instagram feed refresher, as social media occupies our time with useless information by the gigabyte. Take, for example, the knowledge you find yourself suddenly having about what your friend ate for lunch or who retweeted the latest celebrity gossip. Further, research shows that our brains don’t actually have the capability to concentrate on two things at the same time, meaning every text message that interrupts us at work is diminishing our ability to process information, stay on task and be our most productive, valuable selves.
Ding, ding, ding, round one is over. We aren’t yet declaring it a knockout or telling you to eliminate all forms of technology from your life, but it is time to hear from the defendant. Thus, a look at how social media benefits our lives:
- It can inspire healthy lifestyle changes
If engaged with in a positive sense, social media has endless resources that can motivate us to exercise, get outside, eat healthy and become a better version of ourselves. One study even said that social media has a way of normalizes help-seeking behaviour.
- It aids medical research
Medical professionals regularly use social networking sites to collect data and recruit participants for health studies, and many are reported to have found the data collected through social media to be more accurate and robust than that collected through more traditional methods. Does this mean we can partially thank social media for medical advancements and future care we may receive? Perhaps.
- It builds communities
Social media can foster a strong sense of community among users, as online forums and content sharing sites connect people with shared interests. Let’s not discount love connections made through Tinder, job opportunities discovered on LinkedIn and friendships that began with retweets. Double tap to that!
These are but a few facts and fun thoughts, and now we leave it up to you. Is social media negatively or positively affecting your health? Whatever you decide, it goes without saying that striking a balance between plugging in and disengaging is the way to go. Leave it to Nike to inspire us with their campaign called ”
And alas, leave it to Nike to inspire us with their 2017 kick-off campaign called “Time is Precious” to leave us with a sombre wake-up call and nudge us in the right direction. Do note, however – this campaign was released on social media.
Tips to help you achieve a little more digital balance in your day-to-day:
- Schedule no-phone time
30 minutes before you go to bed is widely recommended as a no screen zone. Perhaps you’ll even buy a real alarm clock so that your room is a completely tech-free zone. This has been proven to increase the quality of your sleep, as looking at a screen before bed restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle.
- Take a tech vacation
Set aside a day, be it once a week, month or quarter that you completely refrain from using social media. When was the last time you did this? Consider it a simple but effective tactic towards pushing reset on your stress levels, sanity and creativity.
- Pick up your phone and call
Connect with people by calling instead of sending a text… imagine that!? Yes, it’s true. Phone calls satisfy more of the positive communication nuances we humans need to feel connected than a few emojis on a screen.
- Set specific social time
Try reserving one consecutive hour every day (no more and no less) to enjoy social media and see how it feels.
At the end of the day technology should enhance our lives, not take anything away from us, and yet it can be incredibly hard to strike a healthy balance between our online and offline lives. The good news is, it’s not all that difficult of a problem to fix — you just need to be a little proactive and have a desire to change. Ready to give it a try?