Is Social Media Negatively Affecting Your Health?
Technology, science, and research have taken us into a brave new world. We are now living lives that were once only visible in the “Jetsons” Saturday morning cartoons and futuristic Hollywood movies. As a kid, I remember riding Epcot’s “Spaceship Earth” that zoomed us through the ages, and into the future, where people used to talk to each other through their TV’s and computers. I’m not sure whether scientists back then even envisioned we would have what is now social media, or that we’d be accessing it through tiny devices that act as a phone, calendar, and computer, all in one. Technology and cell phones have no doubt changed the way we live and interact, keeping us connected with friends and relatives we may have otherwise lost touch with.
But there is also a dark side. Research has emphasized some of the serious side effects that technology and social media may have. But the convenience of having everyone accessible at your fingertips does come with a price. Adults and children are starting to see the effects, and more connections are being made between technological advances and significant health problems. One of the biggest concerns surrounding social media is that it is changing the way we communicate and interact, and more importantly, how we feel about ourselves, both mentally and physically.
The Dark Side of Social Media
According to new research, the more time children, teens, and adults spend on social media, the greater the risk of developing mental issues. Disturbingly, there is a direct correlation between online social networking and psychiatric disorders including low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, ADD, and ADHD.
The most pronounced concern lies in addiction. The phenomenon is so new that research is only just starting to come out about this issue, but there is sufficient evidence to suggest the internet and social media addiction is real and extremely intrusive. In fact, there is a diagnosis being called “Facebook Addiction Disorder” and it meets all the criteria: neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood modifying experiences, and the tolerance and concealing of addictive behavior.
Connected, but not Connected
You may be connected to hundreds of “friends” on social media, but studies are showing that these connections are actually linked to greater feelings of social isolation. As it turns out, the more time you spend on social media sites, the more you perceive yourself to be socially isolated. These negative feelings are one of the worst things for our bodies and can have tremendous side effects.
Is Social Media Negatively Impacting Our Mental Health?
Healthcare professionals have been taken aback by the huge inflow of patients affected by social media. Psychologists and psychiatrists are seeing depressed and anxious teenagers at alarming rates. Why is this? Subconsciously, social media scrollers are taking note of all the contrasts they find between their own lives and those of the perfectly presented lives they glance over. Although common sense tells us what we’re looking at is probably a fake portrayal of reality that has been photoshopped and edited, the comparison still takes place in our minds and tends to lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, and other depressive symptoms. Body type, family composition, lifestyles, and social preferences have become so idealized that it’s easy to feel inadequate about our own lives, appearance, intelligence, and success. The outcome? Moral integrity gets lost.
Let’s be honest. How do you feel after your sessions on social media platforms? Do you feel distracted, jealous, or unnerved? Take a few minutes to examine the list below:
- Do you find yourself comparing your life to others based on social media content?
- Do you feel a level of distress while viewing your feed?
- Are you frequently envious of others while engaging in posts?
- Is social media your primary leisure activity?
- Are you connecting with friends and family more often on social media than in person?
- Has your ability to concentrate decreased?
- Have you noticed an unusual social anxiety when you interact with people offline?
- Do you feel the need to share everything you do on social media?
- Do you experience FOMO—fear of missing out—when you view other people’s activity?
- Do you turn to social media as a distraction or to suppress unpleasant emotions you may be experiencing?
- Have you developed sleep disorders along with increased fatigue?
If you notice any of these symptoms, you may want to reevaluate your stance on social media. Take some time away from it and focus on healthier alternatives. Many therapists and healthcare practitioners are readily available and equipped to discuss social media issues with you.
Addiction Is Real
Addiction in any form is real and very dangerous. Although the study of social media addiction is fairly new, without a doubt, it stimulates pleasure centers and dopamine in the brain, just like drugs and other addictive substances and practices. When your posts are given a “like” you receive positive reinforcement, so you continue posting and checking for more “likes”, which then becomes a need. The habit is hard to break since most humans are wired towards good feelings. However, the line between healthy fun and addictive behavior can quickly be crossed. So much so that the Journal of Psychological Science has declared that social media platforms may be as addictive as alcohol and cigarettes.
Here are a few addictive behaviors to watch out for:
- Is your social media usage compulsive? Do you feel like you “have to” use it?
- Are you having a hard time not engaging in social media, even when you don’t want to?
- Is your use of social media growing and taking up more and more of your time?
- Do you feel a sense of negative emotions arise when you aren’t engaging in an online platform?
- Do you become preoccupied with social media and lose track of reality? Have you lost track of what’s going on in the here and now?
- Have you neglected your “real” relationships with family and friends and find engaging in social media more appealing?
If you answered yes to quite a few of these, chances are you may have a social media addiction. It should be treated just like any other addiction. There are a few methods, listed below, you could try on your own. However, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and have lost control, consult a professional so you can get back to a healthier lifestyle as quickly as possible.
How To Cut The Addiction
Recognizing the need to cut back on your social media usage is the first step in any addiction program. Next? Get offline. Here are some tips on how to break the habit:
- Reach out to friends and family offline. Use the phone to speak to them, or even better, meet face-to-face.
- Put down your phone. Turn it over, or even off, when you’re with company.
- Turn to physical activities that don’t allow you to look at your phone even if you want to. Join a gym, take a jog, or start a dance class.
- Meditate. Everyone should learn the art of controlling their thoughts.
- Find a new healthy hobby, learn a new skill, or take up a foreign language. No time is better than the present to be proactive.
- Get some sleep. If you have an addiction, chances are you’ve been waking up often to check your status updates. If sleep eludes you, look into healthy sleep aids like melatonin.
- Uninstall apps on your phone and remove shortcuts. This has been proven to work miracles by removing the need for a quick fix.
- Set yourself some guidelines that include when and for how long you are allowed to engage in social media. If you need to, set a timer!
What Does This Mean For Adrenal Fatigue?
As much as possible, sufferers of AFS must create a stress-free environment for themselves. With stress being the root cause of this debilitating ailment, avoiding stress-inducing activities is the key to healing. With new evidence surfacing daily on the negative effects of social media, it may be a good idea for AFS patients to limit their online interactions even more than the average person. Especially due to the fact that social media has now been linked to anxiety, an issue that can handicap even the healthiest body.
Although there is no direct connection between AFS and anxiety, they are definitely intertwined. Stress affects the entire NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response system. When something affects all six of the major systems in the body, it needs to be addressed. If social media is causing you anxiety and you suffer from AFS, speak to your healthcare practitioner about creating an action that will work best for you.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
What does social media have to do with AFS?
Scientific research has now linked social media interaction with anxiety and depression. Although AFS is not caused by these issues, it is definitely aggravated by the stress they put on the body. People who suffer with AFS should use social media with caution.