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Three Ways Social Media is Causing You Harm: And What You Can Do About It!


Imagine you are in a public place.

You look around, and complete strangers are engaged with life. Perhaps even having a conversation with one another? Dare, I say— to help pass the time by.

Shocking!

Yet, this was our reality only 10 years ago!

Now, everywhere you look (unless you're in a deserted forrest) people are glued to their smart phones: mindlessly scrolling, scrolling, and scrolling. We've morphed into a culture where likes, shares, pictures, and posts, have become THE way of life.

This new culture didn't come with a guide book on how to handle this change. Who would have thought we needed one?

Although, intuitively you know that mindlessly scrolling through your social media feed when you have a few spare minutes to kill, isn't the best habit for our collective psyche, but maybe you don't know it could be actually harming your health.

Here are three ways social media may be hurting your health and three solutions for what you CAN do about it.

Trying to capture the moment, without actually experiencing the moment:

Maybe you've been there. You're out with a group of friends and everyone is snapping selfies and posting pictures of their super amazing night. So YES you are out with a group of people, but everyone is individually crafting and show-casing their I'm-oh-so-happy-look-at-me-lives on social media. So you're together, but not totally present together.

And by the time the night is over, the pictures have been captured, but the moments not fully lived.

What can you do about it? Limit the number of pictures you snap to no more than 10 pictures a night! Not 10 per minute, or 10 per hour. 10 per night! Period.

Social media affects your mood: Fueling "Facebook Envy" and "Facebook Depression"

Pretty scary there is actually a term for "Facebook Envy" and "Facebook Depression." In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics even did a study on "Facebook Depression", and the results were as dismal as the name. Another study found that Facebook use was linked to less life satisfaction and moment-to-moment happiness. The more people used Facebook in a day, the more they felt dissatisfied and unhappy with their lives. The study concluded that "on the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection...however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it."

I guarantee you that at one point during your social media use, you've experienced pangs of jealousy. Perhaps while you flipped through posts of people ecstatically announcing their wedding engagements, while you sat at home single and alone?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that social comparison (especially on the glamorized pages of social media) triggers jealousy.

Back in 2013, a study by psychologist Hanna Krasnova pointed out that "the magnitude of envy incidents taking place on FB alone is astounding, providing evidence that FB offers a breeding ground for invidious feelings."

The researchers also concluded jealousy can become a vicious cycle: feeling envious may make a person want to make their life look better, and post jealousy-inducing posts of their own. Which only creates a cycle of one-upping one another.

So when I see you posting pictures of your trip to Hawaii, I retaliate by posting my trip to Nicaragua— and on and on it goes in a cycle of digital keeping up with the Joneses. Come on, haven't you ever tried to snap photos of an awe-striking sunset while perfectly arranging wine glasses, thinking, "this is going to drive my friends wild?"

What can you do about it? Limit your social media use to a certain time period each day. Hey, don't kill the messenger— the research links more exposure to social media with reductions in mood.

Oh, and one more thing. ONLY and I mean only, go on social media when your mood is sound.

Which do you think will affect you more: seeing a post from your ex-boyfriend proposing to his new girlfriend while feeling critical and alone? Or when you are feeling emotionally strong?

Lack of Authentic Connection:

Have you ever been having a conversation with a friend about something that is important to you and they are posting status updates and lacking eye-contact?

Do you feel important when your friend does this or do you feel just a little bit smaller and disconnected from the moment?

Or what about scrolling and liking posts while talking with your friend or mom on the phone while they babble on about their day. Technically, you're listening, but not fully listening.

In Chef Vikrim Vij's TED Talk he says, "posting on social media while you are socializing is the most anti-social thing you can do...it is ruining the essence and soul of dining together with your friends and family"

BINGO Vikrim!

It's so true. The little universe you've created with the person you're spending time with loses it's connection if the phones come out and eyes chronically draw to the screen.

As human beings we thrive because of connection. Dr Brene, a research Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College says:"A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

What can you do about it? Keep your phone in your bag and turn off the notifications. Yes, if you're one of those social media butterflies, even one ding may bring your mind to the phone and off of the moment.

Enjoy the mini universe you've created with the individual(s) you've invested your time in. Being present and feeling connected, is one of the universal keys to happiness.

Concluding Thoughts

Social media is here to stay.

And YES, social media absolutely comes with a host of bright and bubbly benefits.

But it also bares an equally dark shadow side.

We need to be mindful of how we use these platforms of mass distraction known as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat and the like.

It's YOUR life. Own your smart phone, don't let it own and out smart you!


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