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The Bad-For-You Side of Social Media

By Jamie Ryder, PhD, MS June 03, 2015 Posted in: Mental Health

Do you have the latest app?

Have you checked your Twitter feed recently?

Did you see what she posted on her Facebook wall?

These are all common statements we hear nearly every single day that was not a part of our vocabulary 15 years ago. The social media revolution has transformed many of our lives into one where we face a barrage of information from multiple sources telling us about the fascinating lives of others, the things we need to be doing in order to look better and feel better about ourselves and all of the latest gizmos and gadgets that you need in order to make your life more fulfilling. All of this information coming at us at cyber speed can be quite overwhelming and lead to some serious implications for our mental health.

Here are just a few of the ways that social media has negatively impacted people’s mental health:

We are constantly comparing our lives with others - When you look at other individuals Facebook or Instagram feed it is generally filled with happy status updates or pictures of them having a good time. That is because individuals tend to post the positive aspects of their lives. This can lead to those viewing the post to the false illusion that the other person has a “happier” or “more fulfilling” life and also feelings of dejection that they were not included.

It is difficult for us to fully realize that on Facebook, people often share idealized and not realistic representations of themselves.  Constantly comparing ourselves to others can lead to feelings of rejection, inadequacy and can further promote social isolation.

It puts people at risk - Everyone, not just children and teenagers, is at risk for cyberbullying. Examples of cyberbullying include negative or derogatory text messages or emails, gossip sent by email or posted on social networking sites and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or luring individuals into relationships through fake profiles (also known as catfishing).

A U.S. Department of Education survey found that 24 percent of school-aged girls were bullied compared to 20 percent of boys. At that age, unwanted text messages were the most common way they were bullied.

Research has shown that individuals who have been cyberbullied are more likely to have low self-esteem, become socially withdrawn and develop drug and alcohol problems.

People are spending so much time on social media it's interfering with the more important aspect of their lives - Recent statistics show that 63 percent of American Facebook users log on to the site daily, while 40 percent of users log on multiple times a day.

The human brain is not wired to be able to focus attention on more than one task at a time. This means if you’re checking your Twitter feed while playing Candy Crush while talking on the phone and trying to help your child with their homework, you are really putting the quality and accuracy of all of the things you are doing at risk and draining your overall productivity.

Since technology and social media have become such an integral part of our lives, it is difficult to eliminate it completely. However, there are a few simple ways that you can avoid having it negatively impact your overall well-being:

  • When you do use social media, make sure that you are not avoiding your important relationships and responsibilities. If you find that you are always on your smartphone, tablet or computer, you may want to cut back and do more things that involve direct interaction.
  • If you start skipping work or other obligations to spend time on social media then it’s probably time to re-evaluate your priorities.
  • When you find yourself feeling bad after using Facebook or Twitter, you may want to think about re-evaluating who you interact with, or maybe even decide if it’s the best idea for you to continue interacting on that site at all.
  • Some experts suggest taking a “social media vacation,"  where you stop using social media for a period of time and then come back, or make a plan to access a site only once a week for a designated amount of time.

The social media revolution is here to stay for awhile but that does not mean that your mental health has to suffer as a result.

You can get more information from The Center for Internet Addiction or The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. If you think you or a loved one needs help visit our website.

Jamie Ryder, PhD, MS
Jamie Ryder, PhD, MS

Jamie Ryder, PhD, MS is a Psychiatrist at CHI Health Clinic.

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