Social media and technology are slowly taking over the world as we know it. From socializing with family and friends from across the globe to closing business deals from the comfort of your home, the world has become more connected than ever before. And even though this connection has its pros, there is always a downside for every positive thing; after all, this is how life works.
Social media is no different than the junk food many of us indulge in. There is no harm when we decide to treat ourselves with a cheesy pizza and chocolate filled milkshake every once in a while. However, when this becomes a habit and it starts to affect aspects of your life, then that is when we draw the line and say - junk food, or social media in our case, can be harmful.
At the end of the day, social media is a tool used to connect people, make life easier and have everything you want at your fingertips. Nevertheless, many are starting to abuse and misuse it to the point where it takes a significant toll on their mental and emotional health.
While social media in itself cannot be considered as harmful, overusing it can actually result in addiction. It is reported that around 210M people suffer from social media addiction worldwide. This is largely due to the fact that social media stimulates the brain to produce more dopamine when a user receives a reward, which comes in the form of likes, comments or any kind of attention.
In fact, a 2012 study by Harvard University says that talking about oneself activates the same areas in the brain that are associated with pleasure. But over a long period of time, this instant pleasure can soon turn into something quite harmful. For instance, research shows that there is in fact a correlation between social media and mental health. It suggests that the less exposure there is to social media, the less likely someone is to develop depression or feel lonely.
When kids, young adults and really anyone scroll through social media and see people post the good sides of their lives traveling and having fun, they might start feeling less content and satisfied with their own life. When looking through the filtered glass of social media, some might feel they are not pretty, smart or fun enough and this can result in lower self-esteem and feelings of pressure. Seeking validation from external parties can cause devastating consequences.
In addition, FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing. The more you see people experiencing life, the more likely you are to feel like you are missing out on things. Not only that, but some are even abusing social media to the point where it has become a tool to bully and make fun of others. This kind of misuse can result in significant impact on kids and young adults, and society as a whole.
“What we don’t realize about the internet in today’s world is that social media (Instagram in specific) may be doing much more harm than good. The rates of anxiety and depression are much higher among young teenage girls who spend a larger amount of time on the internet, comparing themselves to the influencers they follow online. Unfortunately what these girls don’t realize is that they compare themselves to a filtered image of someone else, an edited version of someone’s life. More and more teens are also being impacted by cyberbullying, as internet access is easy and accessible to almost anyone in the world.” - Noureen Ben Halim, Counseling Psychologist
When anything is overused and misused, it can become toxic, and social media is no different. Therefore, it is necessary that we become aware of how much time we are using it and whether or not we are using it to our advantage or not. Here are some ways that can help you control how much you spend on social media:
- Take digital detox breaks
- Use your phones to set screen time limits on certain apps and keep tabs on your weekly usage
- Do not use your phone before bed and opt to keep it away when you sleep
- Take a new hobby to fill your time that is not technology related
- Meet up with your friends and family in person instead
- Ask a friend to hold you accountable
- Ask for professional help if you feel like you need it
Social media addiction is real and it can lead to devastating consequences if left without treatment. And yet, not much is being done to shed light on its severity. Therefore, it is instrumental that we speak up, raise awareness and educate people on how they can reach out for help.
Social media is a real addiction and yet it is never really and fully treated as one.
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