To begin with, the very notion that social media can harm your health would be a surprising one for most. However, when you consider the amount of time that people spend on the various platforms in this regard such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to name a few, such a perception makes absolute sense. Any activity that takes up a lot of your time is bound to have dire consequences on your health. This includes the likes of work, driving, watching TV, and even workouts as well. The question that needs to be asked is if social media is bad for you or not.
Confining the all-encompassing (here pernicious) reach of Digital Mayhem within a page or two is a daunting prospect. What we are going to tell you may be a lot yet not even an iota of what’s yet to be envisaged – we believe.
How can social media have an effect on your health?
Let us zero in on the most immediate effects of our addiction to social media — i.e. eye strain, lack of sleep, and social withdrawal, to name a few. Stress is also a problem of excessive usage of social media. When you spend a lot of time arguing with others and looking up problems it can have an effect on you as well.
In such scenarios you can experience a lot of stress as well and this can have an overall bad effect on your health as well. Cyber-bullying is a great example of what social media can do to your mind. There are plenty of people out there who are always on social media with the specific intention of arguing with others about any and everything under the sun or trolling them for that matter. Violating others’ peace – unfortunately—doesn’t have anything hopeful for you in the offing as well.
Social media addiction
As such, social media addiction is an actual phenomenon.
These days, most people have smart devices such as tabs and smartphones with them at all times. This means that it is harder for them to escape from the clutches of internet. It also needs to be said that people these days are spending a greater amount of time on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
If you are addicted to these sites it can have a really bad effect on your life, let alone your health. Any addiction is harmful in the sense that it can drain away your energy. This means that you are unable to take part in other activities in your life.
This includes your work, the relationships you have in the real world, and the physical activities that you do.
What impact can excessive usage of social media have on your health?
Excessive social media can harm your physical wellbeing as well. However, in this case, a lot depends on the way in which you use it.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The first such way is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If you are using the keys too much for typing you would feel problems in your wrists and hands. In fact, there are certain problems that happen only because of typing on the keys of mobile phones.
In this case, the tendons in your fingers get stretched. This is not related directly to social media but it is something that can happen because of that. This is in the sense that when you are on social media you are normally typing a lot and that can put said strain on said body parts.
Strain on your eyes – issues with vision
You can also strain your eyes by looking at these smartphone screens for a long period of time. Yet another major issue associated with using too much social media is fatigue. In fact, there is a particular condition that happens when you spend too much time in front of the screen. It is also known as Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS. Your eyes become dry and itchy. You start developing blurred vision. You have headaches and areas of your body such as neck, shoulder, and back are always in pain.
Sleep deprivation and other such issues
When you stay up late posting or checking your social media accounts you are bound to lose valuable sleep. You may think that if you do a bit of social media just before you go to sleep it would help you relax and have a good night’s sleep. Such work actually tricks your brain into thinking that it needs to be awake. It does so by exciting, upsetting, or startling your brain. “Tech-sleeping” is also harmful because of all the chimes, signals, alerts, and vibrations can mess up your precious slumber really badly.
Even if you have put your phone on the silent your brain is always expecting an alert and this is why it stays awake. This makes it very difficult to sleep properly at the very least.
Lack of physical exercise
Social media is also to reduce the time that you can spend in physical activities such as exercise or even spending time outdoors.
Being distracted while doing other important work
Distraction is one of the most devastating side effects of using too much social media. For example, if you are driving and
checking your social media accounts at the same time you can suffer a fatal accident as well. The same thing can also happen if you walk and do social media work at the same time.
Internet Addiction Disorder
Are you someone who is always checking her or his phone for updates on your own social media account? Are you so
consumed by social media that you are unable to focus on other things? If the answer to these questions is yes you could be suffering from a mental condition known as Internet Addiction Disorder or IAD. There are other signs that you are suffering from IAD. However, social media usage is said to be one of the most prominent sources in this regard. The thing with such platforms is they provide you a lot of entertainment and relief from your regular life. This is the reason why people find it difficult to let them go even when they want to.
Lower self-esteem and other mental disorders
It has been seen that excessive usage of social media can have a bad effect on your self-esteem as well.
It can make you self-conscious and thus highly insecure. When you spend a lot of time on such platforms there is always a natural tendency to compare oneself with others. Low self-esteem engenders low confidence. A number of studies done in the past have shown that this can have a bad effect on our overall well-being as well. Using social media too much also means that you end up taking it a lot more seriously than what it should be.
The standards on social media are unrealistic to say the least and you can often get trapped in the same.
On such a platform you are always looking for validation from others in the form of likes and shares. You are always looking to gain more followers. You are comparing yourself to your peers who may be doing better in life. All these can lower your self-esteem even more. This can later on lead to issues such as anxiety and depression. In fact, it has been proven that people who spend a lot of time on social media have a higher risk of being exposed to these issues.
People know that many users in their network on social media are always careful about what they post. They make it look like they are on an eternal holiday or leading the ideal life. They do this to evoke envy and jealousy. In spite of this people fall into the trap created for them and it affects them badly in the end. When you use social media excessively you also tend to suffer from FOMO or fear of missing out. You feel like a failure and inadequate.
It can also lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder that manifests itself in behavior and thought patterns.
In a research published at the Journal of Eating Disorders in 2017 it was seen that people were promoting extreme skinniness and glorifying skeletal bodies that showed protruding hip bones and collar bones.
The study was done by researchers at the University of Exeter at England. It showed how some users on Twitter and Instagram were glorifying such disturbing body structures under the hashtag – bonespiration. It was mostly young women who were showing off their emaciated bodies.
Psychology Today says that excessive usage of social media can increase the risk of brain disorders by restructuring your brain. It has been seen that people who are addicted to social media have shown atrophy in the grey matter of their brains. This is important because it is the grey area of your brain that helps you perform variant functions in life.
If it shrinks it would become impaired and that would simply devastate your life.
Greater risk of cancer
Dr. Aric Sigman, a psychologist based out of the UK, says that excessive social media usage can develop the risk of cancer in you as well.
Social media causes you to be isolated and this excessive screen time can actually alter the way your genes are working. Dr. Sigman says that our bodies react differently in various circumstances. For example it would act differently when we are in the virtual world and differently when we are in the real one. All these changes and varied reactions can cause a number of health issues with cancer being the most significant one among them.
It can shorten your lifespan
This is simple actually. A number of studies have proven that when you are excessively engaged on social media you tend to spend a lot of time sitting at one place.
That hampers your cardiovascular health. You may think that if you get up and work out after spending a long time in front of screens the ill effects would be warded off. Research suggests that this is not entirely possible. In fact, a study done back in 2011 stated that people who spent a minimum of 4 hours in front of a screen every day had a 50 per cent higher chance of dying early than those who did not do so.
They have a higher chance of experiencing strokes and heart attacks. The thing is that even vigorous exercise may not at times be sufficient in these cases.
It can alter your metabolism
Well, you may think that you can correct this problem as well. The truth is that it may not always be possible to do so. The screens of these devices are actually supposed to emit a bright light that slows down your metabolism. This has been proven recently by a team of researchers at the Northwestern University. This light affects the levels of cortisol in your body. This in turn affects the amount of insulin produced by your body.
The research team found that people who were exposed to this light more often in the afternoon or evening had a higher body weight than those who were exposed to it in early morning. The earlier group was more exposed to the blue light normally emitted from these smart devices. This could lead to Type 2 diabetes and higher sugar levels as well. In fact, it has also been seen that this blue light can decrease the production of melatonin, a hormone, in your body. This can interfere with your sleep cycles as well.
It can lead to issues with your posture as well
Normally, when most people are spending time in front of these screens they are doing so in hunched positions.
This can affect their posture alarmingly. This is because in such cases their ribcages are pressed badly, the head comes forward with the eyes fixated on the phone, and the shoulders are internally rotated and rounded. On a short-term basis this would not do you much damage. However, the thing with this situation is that we do end up spending a lot of time in such a position simply because we are using social media a lot. Such bad posture affects our lumbar spine. This means that we experience problems in areas such as neck, upper back, and shoulder.
We experience pain in the lower back area. Your breathing becomes a lot shallow as well.
It glamorizes dangerous behavior
It has been seen that social media can and does promote activities such as smoking and drinking among teenagers, which can affect their health in an adverse way. In a study done by the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine it was seen that kids who sent 120 or more texts in a school day spend a lot more time on social media platforms.
They have greater potential to take part in health behavior that is both illicit and dangerous for them. They have a 41 per cent greater chance of trying illegal drugs and 43 per cent greater chance of being binge drinkers. In fact, these are just few issues pointed out in said study.
So, these in a nutshell, are the bad effects that using excessive social media can have on your health and over well-being. Spending a few hours away from our phones—even “self effectuating” a day or two of digital detox (regardless of how improbable they end up sounding) are definite steps towards the initiation of our fight against digital mayhem.