Side Effects of Social Media

Are you depressed, anxious, or feeling isolated? Are you suffering from low self-esteem? Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you feel unproductive? Do you feel the need to check your social media feeds several times throughout the day? If you answered “Yes” to some of these questions, then you might be experiencing some side effects of social media use.

1. Poor Performance

Research shows that social media use worsens your ability to multi-task (truthfully, we are not very good at multi-tasking to begin with).

Possible Remedies:

Log off of social media whenever you are trying to get a task done quickly. You might want to refrain from social media use during working hours.

Create a vision board or set goals for the future. If you have concrete goals, you will be more productive and less inclined to use social media as frequently.

2. Insomnia

Any kind of light can alter the level of melatonin in your brain and interfere with the quality of your sleep. Because a lighted screen is required for social media, social media use at night may be an indirect cause of your insomnia.

Possible Remedy:

Turn off social media (and electronics) two hours before bedtime.

3. Loss of time

Does this sound like a familiar scenario? It’s 4:30 pm. In five minutes, I need to start making dinner, but I have to check my e-mail first. Oh, okay, I have 12 notifications. Cindy posted a new picture of her baby. Oh my! What a cutie! I forgot to send her a gift. Uh-oh, Carolyn changed her relationship status to single? I should call her to see if she is okay. Hmmm…Uncle Jarvis posted another political meme. That’s annoying. Oh man, what is the world coming to? Another school shooting? “Mama, I’m hungry!” Just a second…what in the world? It’s 6:30 pm already?!

Possible Remedies:

Set a time limit. Give yourself a limited amount of time to spend on social media each day. After you have met the time limit, close the app for the rest of the day.

Turn off social media notifications or remove social media apps from your phone. You will be less inclined to check your social media feeds throughout the day.

Only use social media when you need to. For example, only use social media for looking up someone’s contact information or for grabbing a good deal on a company page.

4. Strained Relationships

When you ask teenagers, ‘What’s the one thing you wish you could change in your relationship with your parents?’ The most common answer teenagers give to that question is, ‘I wish my parents weren’t on their devices so much and would actually listen to me.’

Andy Crouch, author of “The Tech-Wise Family”

Because I work from home and am a mother of three small children, I do not get out that much. So, whenever I am around someone that is constantly looking at the phone, I (like the teenagers in the above quote) become frustrated. Excessive social media use can affect marriages and other relationships as well.

Possible Remedies:

Eye contact. When someone is speaking to you, look up from your device and give them your attention.

Quality time should be quality time. When spending quality time with loved ones, do not log onto social media.

5. Anxiety, Depression and Low Self-Esteem

Research shows that people that spend more time on social media are more depressed and have lower self-esteem because they start to compare themselves to other “friends” on social media.

Possible Remedies:

Remember what’s real. Social media can fool you into thinking that all of your other digital “friends” are richer, better-looking, more exciting, more capable, more put together, etc. Don’t be fooled. Remember that most people only post their most exciting, polished, attractive selves on social media. Remember that scars, cellulite, emotional baggage, daily monotony, and extra padding are often omitted.

Focus on the good.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Philippians 4:8

Even if you do not believe in the Bible, this is good advice. Instead of wishing for more money, a thinner body, a more creative mind, or a more powerful job, be grateful for what you have. Focus on the good.

Unfollow people that are toxic to you. On Facebook, you can remove someone from your newsfeed without unfriending them (and they won’t even know about it). This might be a good idea if your Facebook friend is posting things that make you upset.

Before logging into social media accounts, do something else that you love to do. Go outside, exercise, plant some flowers in the backyard, call a friend, meetup with a friend for coffee, play some sports, crochet a blanket for a baby, read, fly a kite, get your nails done, write in a journal, send a letter by snail mail, teach your nephew how to shoot pool, play some music, or do a jigsaw puzzle. You could also pick up a new hobby.

Ask for help. I believe that everyone can benefit from professional counseling.

6. Addiction

Social media can cause your brain to crave more “likes”, “friends”, instant responses, and more excitement from social media.

Possible Remedies:

Take breaks from social media. Don’t go on any of your social media accounts for half a day, a day, a week, a month, or a year.

Accountability. Tell someone that you want to cut back on social media use and ask them to keep you accountable.

Delete your accounts. A few years ago, I didn’t need any social media accounts for work, so I deleted my accounts for a few years. If social media is affecting your health, this might be worth considering.

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Recommended Resource

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane

References

Beres, Damon. 10 Weird Negative Effects of Social Media on Your Brain. Retrieved from https://www.rd.com/health/wellness/negative-effects-of-social-media/

Woods, H.C. & Scott, H. (2016). #Sleepyteens: Social media use in adolescence is associated with poor sleep quality, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Journal of Adolescence, 51, 41-49. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27294324