Negative Health Effects of Social Media

Introduction

Social media, backed by technology has made people more connected than ever before. However, the reliance of the global population on social media can have negative effects on people’s mental health, especially considering the report by Barr (2017) that an average British checks their phones 28 times a day. Thus, a school of though has argued that despite their many benefits, frequent use of social media can affect mental health by making people isolated and unhappy in the long-term. The constant viewing of filtered images on Facebook and Instagram affect people’s self-esteem, while an obsession with Tweeter just before going to bed can affect one’s quality of sleep. The following are ways in which social media can negatively affect one’s mental health without noticing.

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Self-esteem

People have their fair share of insecurities, some of which they speak about openly while others they prefer to keep secret. However, when individuals compare themselves with others on social media by checking the perfectly filtered images on social media or checking the updated relationships on Facebook status, they can begin to feel a sense of self –doubt.

Walker (2016) reported a study on the negative effects of Facebook which found that people suffer from what they termed as “Facebook envy,” while those who reported staying away from using Facebook agreed to being more satisfied with their lives. Fundamentally, the study concluded that people tend to derive their sense of self-worth by evaluating how they are doing compared to others, and that they derive their happiness based on variables that are completely out of their control; with social media being the most popular tool used to compare themselves with others. This implies that evaluating how much time one spends on social media can help boost their self-confidence and focus more on themselves. However, it can be difficult to do so if people are glued to their phones and computers with an interest in becoming more acquitted with their friends’ digital lives that their real-life personalities.

Memory

Social media is a great tool for looking back at past events and recounting the memories of the past. However, it can also affect the way people remember some bits of the past. With this regard, Hausmann et al (2017) argue that if people have all their attention on capturing the best shots of their memories for people to admire on social media, they will have less time to enjoy the experience in real-time. For instance, a friend recently complained about how some ladies spend more time taking pictures of the date at the expense of enjoying the real experience of the date.

Sleep

A basic knowledge in mental health is that having enough sleep enhances one’s mental well-being. However, many people use their phones just before they go to bed, making it harder for them to doze off. According to Hausmann et al (2017), people’s quality of sleep is destroyed by the envy or anxiety they derive from what they see on social media. Anxiety or envy immediately before sleep triggers the brain to be on high alert, thereby preventing one from sleeping. Besides, according to Luxton et al (2012), keeping the mobile devices just inches from the face exposes the eye from the light that can affect the release of melatonin, the hormone that triggers sleep by helping one to feel tired. This implies that developing a habit of not using mobile devices at least 40 minutes before sleep helps enhance the quality of sleep.

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Attention Span

Social media does not only affect one’s subconscious bran but also the brain’s concentration when one is awake. While social media enables one to be fully up to date with the latest information it also makes people be more easily distracted. Ideally, as Liest (2013) argues, social media make people give in to easy-to-access and readily available entertainment. This affects people’s ability to exercise their will-power.

Social media has not only been found to be detrimental to happiness but also mental health through depression and anxiety when used without caution. McAteer (2018) reported a study conducted on 1000 individuals where some respondents said that they would quit social media for good while 41% of the respondents said that social media either made them depressed, sad or anxious. Barr (2017) reported a social media user with 5000 followers on Twitter who decided to go silent on the platform for a while and claimed that whereas Twitter made him feel concerned with strangers who did not know him in real life, going silent made him have a clearer mind and more time to do other important things such as reading books. More significantly, the relationship between social media and depression is mediated by the fact that lonely people tend to connect with people through social media platforms than on real social engagements (Barr, 2017).

Therefore, while one does not necessarily need to quit social media for good, they should be able to recognize and act when they feel like it is beginning to drag them down or allocate social media-time free moments in their daily routine. Considering this slight change can mean a lot to one’s mental health.

References

Hausmann J. Touloumtzis C. White M. Colbert J. & Gooding (2017) Adolescent and Young adult use of social media for health and its implications. Journal of Adolescent Health [ejounal] 60(6), pp. 714-719.

Leist A. (2013) Social Media use of older adults: A mini-review. Gerontology [e-journal] 59(4) pp. 378-384.

Luxton D. June J. and Fairall M. (2012) Social media and suicide: A public Health Perspective. American Journal of Public Health, 102(s2), pp. s195-200.

McAteer O. (2018) Gen Z is quitting social media in droves because it makes them unhappy, study finds.

Walke P. (2016) Facebook makes you unhappy and makes jealous people particularly sad, study finds.

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