How Social Media Can Harm Your Health

How Social Media Can Harm Your Health | Dr. Ali Ghahary

As many as 3 million people worldwide use social media, and that number only continues to grow. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or any other platform, social media is drawing people in by the droves, and in a day and age where technology has become an integral part of people’s everyday lives, it’s probably not something we’ll see a change with anytime soon. While there are certainly positives when it comes to using social media – such as being able to communicate with friends and loved ones, and having the ability to get information and breaking news in real time – there are downsides to it as well.

On average, adults will spend anywhere from 2 to 3 hours on social media each day, while teenagers tend to spend much more time using social media platforms (as much as 9 hours each day.) One of the most common problems related to excessive use of social media is that one’s concentration might be affected, meaning you may perform poorly at work (such as failing to meet deadlines, or making errors on the job) or at school (such as getting poor grades and having poor attendance.) According to a study done by California State University, the more social media use you partake in, the worse off your job and academic performance will be. However, work and school aren’t the only things that can be affected by one’s excessive use of social media. Personal relationships can be affected, too. While social media can take away from the amount of one on one time you’re spending with those closest to you, it can also be cause of the demise of romantic relationships. Individuals who use social media often feel like they need to prove themselves and let the world know they’re in committed relationships – also known as being “Facebook official” (a term that is used when two people change their relationships status on social media to let their followers know if they’re single or not.) Letting too many people in on your personal life can cause a lot of strain within relationships. If a dating or married couple has social media, it’s also not uncommon for one party to expect the other to post about how happy they are, or how great the relationship they’re in is. These types of expectations can also cause some major problems in relationships, and can ultimately result in couples seeking outside therapy, such as counselling.

When it comes to age groups, social media tends to be more popular amongst teenagers than it does adults. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen the very real and very tragic consequences that the use of social media can have on our children today; particularly with cyberbullying. Teenagers go through significant developmental changes, and during that time they can also have a limited capacity for self-regulation, which makes them susceptible to things like experimentation and peer pressure. Add social media into the mix, and you have the perfect storm, as well as become a very easy target. Whether you’re a teenager or adult on social media, cyberbullying can have extremely harmful effects on mental health, and can lead to things such as anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, as well as suicide attempts.

In addition to peer pressure and cyberbullying, social media can also leave one feeling isolated and unhappy with themselves (or their looks) thanks to those perfectly filtered photos you see on apps like Snapchat. In a previous article by Dr. Ali Ghahary, he talks about the harmful effects that social media can have when it comes to how individuals perceive themselves and gives a more in-dept explanation of the troubling new trend known as ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’.

See: ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’ a Troubling New Trend

Social media isn’t all bad, however. As mentioned, there can be many positive aspects when it comes to social media use. It can improve social connection and general socialization skills, promote creativity, and be a great learning tool as well as a place for individuals with chronic illness to reach out to different support groups and online forums. Simply be mindful of the way in which you use social media, and play close attention to your child’s use of social media as well. If you suspect your child may be the victim of cyberbullying, some signs to watch out for include sudden changes in mood, social withdrawal, and loss of interest in certain activities. If you notice any of these red flags, it’s important to have a dialogue and encourage anyone who might be experiencing trouble to reach out for help.

For more information and mental health resources, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention website at www.suicideprevention.ca. For immediate assistance, youth can also connect with a counsellor through Kid’s Help Phone by calling 1-800-668-6868, which is available 24/7.