5 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health
No one can deny the fact that social media affects our health. Be it physically, psychologically, or a dangerous combination of the two, our addiction to our mobile screens can have some pretty dire consequences to our health if left unchecked. The health effects of social media range from funny, small-potatoes stuff like FOMO to much more frightening possibilities like altered brain structures.
Obviously, social media and technology aren’t all bad. They can bring connectivity, ease, information, and excitement into our lives. But, maybe we should also consider putting our devices down a little bit more often.
So if you’ve got a little bit of a screen addiction, read on to learn more about the health risks associated with the social media overuse.
Restructuring Your Brain
According to Psychology Today, there are now multiple studies that demonstrate brain atrophy in grey matter in individuals with Internet/gaming addictions. What does this mean? Well, the grey matter areas of the brain are the parts where “processing” occurs. They are the sites of the brain where planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control happen – basically, they’re the parts of the brain that enable us to get things done. If these areas atrophy, they shrink and become impaired, which is kind of a big deal.
Screen addiction also contributes to restructured white matter, and white matter is the brain stuff that links our brain hemispheres and helps our brain communicate with our body. And, the thing is, recent research also suggests that it isn’t just those who are addicted to screens that suffer from brain restructuring. Developing children’s brains are particularly susceptible to these potential problems.
Glamorizing Drug and Alcohol Use
A study that explored the relationship between teenagers, social media, and drug use found that 70% of teenagers ages 12 to 17 use social media, and those who interact with it on a daily basis are five times more likely to use tobacco, three times more likely to use alcohol, and twice as likely to use marijuana.
In addition, 40% admitted they had been exposed to pictures of people under the influence via social media, suggesting a correlation between the two factors. Although a correlation is all it is, it makes sense that social media would amp up the amount of peer pressure to which teenagers are exposed.
Affecting Your Metabolism
A team of researchers at Northwestern University recently found that the bright lights emitted from our smart devices (along with messing up our sleep) can also slow down our metabolisms. Essentially, light affects our cortisol levels, and our cortisol levels affect our insulin production. The research team found that participants who were exposed to more light in the morning were more able to maintain a lesser body weight than those who received most of their light in the afternoon and evening.
Here’s the kicker: the evening light group were more likely to be receiving their light as “blue light” from a device. This later-light intake can be linked to higher sugar levels and even Type-2 diabetes. It’s better to turn the screens off at night, refrain from screen-time during meals, and get the majority of your light from natural light in the morning hours.
Alleviating Anxiety and Stress Levels
Social media creates and contributes to our anxiety in two major ways: it causes us to compare our lives to others, and it is involved in the fear of missing out (FOMO, as the kids call it). Even though we all know in theory that most people carefully curate the most idealized versions of themselves and their lives for their social media personas, it’s still really difficult to not compare our own lives to theirs.
These feelings of envy and inadequacy associated with viewing other people’s lives through the lens of social media, can contribute to feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, personal failure, and it can even create obsessive-compulsive thought patterns and behaviors.
Exposing To Productivity Drain and Risks
You have to admit it; while social media might help us connect more easily, it also diverts our attention and hampers productivity. The brain has difficulty focusing on more than one task at a time, which means if you’re working as you watch YouTube videos you’re really putting your work quality and accuracy at risk, draining your overall productivity.
Distracting You From Real Life
Social media focuses on rather trivial things—such as what your buddy ate last night for dinner or your sister’s cat in a dress. Sure, it’s amusing stuff, but it’s not life-changing. Few are the true momentous events, like the engagements, births, and graduations that social media shares among “friends”. Because of this, it can be argued that the time you spend on social media distracts you from being present in your own real life.
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