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Social Media Has a Dark Side: The Two Sides of Social Media

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Every now and again we might experience feelings of loneliness as humans, especially in recent times. Due to the outbreak, our social lives might be one of the things that’s suffering the most. However, interacting with people in person isn’t the only way we can connect with others.

Social media provides an outlet for those staying home and staying safe. Social media allows us to connect with others in tons of different ways through various platforms, there’s one for everyone. Some popular social media sites include Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and more. You can even interact with others while cooped up in your home playing video games with Twitch. Thanks to technology all this is possible.

Healthcare professionals in particular have been using social media to help their patients during this pandemic. According to C. Lee Ventola, healthcare professionals can use social media platforms and tools to network, educate, promote, care for patients, and enhance public health programs. Though, as with anything, there are cautions to using social media.

When used in excess, social media can negatively affect a person’s health and could even consume them. It is important to be aware of the risks now that most everyone uses social media in some way. Statista shows that there are around 3 billion social network users worldwide.

In terms of healthcare, social media could be a breeding ground for misconceptions and poor-quality information. Anyone can upload content or make claims without going through any type of screening, it is up to the user to believe what they read or not.

I do see why the pull toward social media is strong though: interacting with people without having to see them? yes please. It is also easier to exchange and find conversations, ideas, photos, and other content. While that’s all well and good, social media use could encourage physical inactivity and damage the mental health of its users.

Social media is accessed through a device like a phone or computer. And we usually aren’t exercising while scrolling on them. Sometimes we can be so invested in what we are doing in social media we might neglect to take care of ourselves by sacrificing adequate sleep and meals. In addition, excessive screen viewing can negatively impact eye health. Screens often emit blue light which promotes eye strain.

“Viewing a computer or digital screen often makes the eyes work harder,” says the American Optometric Association. “As a result, the unique characteristics and high visual demands of computer and digital screen device viewing make many individuals susceptible to the development of vision-related symptoms.” Maintaining proper sitting position and products that help eliminate blue light can reduce symptoms.

Other than our physical health, social media use also impacts our mental health. And mental health is the crux of having an overall good quality of life.

Specifically, cyber bullying has become a problem. The JCSE provides that cyber bullying is “a type of harassment that is perpetrated using electronic technology.” Such bullies use social media platforms to carry out this harassment and their victims can experience much hurt and suffering. Social media could be a place you find help with such an issue though too.

They also say that social media could negatively impact education just as much as it can help it. Social media can help further one’s education and enhance their knowledge but could also reduce learning and research capabilities, command over language, and creative writing skills.

Social media can also influence someone’s perception of body image. People can manipulate photos to make them look more appealing. Viewers can then compare themselves to such unrealistic images and develop low self-esteem or other related disorders. Fortunately, awareness of this has spread in recent years, inspiring people to accept themselves and be comfortable in their own skin.

According to HelpGuide, excessive use of social media can promote feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation, and fear of missing out (FOMO). Social media could be used to replace real-world, human connection but this is dangerous.

“It requires in-person contact with others to trigger the hormones that alleviate stress and make you feel happier, healthier, and more positive,” HelpGuide says. “Ironically for a technology that’s designed to bring people closer together, spending too much time engaging with social media can actually make you feel more lonely and isolated—and exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.”

Luckily, there are simple steps you can take if social media is bringing you down. Readjusting your social media habits could make all the difference. But easier said than done. What’s important is you at least try. Take small strides in the right direction, no need to go leaps and bounds right off the bat.

It might be a good idea to reflect on why you even use social media too. By understanding what purpose social media holds in your life, you could better discover how to approach changing. Do you use it to stay up to date on family or current events? Or do you want to boost your image and receive “likes”? Your reasons could be more telling than your habits in some cases.

You may need to reduce your social media use if you fit the following bill:

• It consumes more of your time than anything else
• You tend to always compare yourself unfavorably to others
• You undergo harassment
• You’re often distracted and worry about posting regularly
• You don’t take a break from it, social media is always on the brain
• You experience sleep disruptions

Overall, social media seems to have just as many negatives as positives. What makes the difference is how you use and experience social media. Don’t place too much value on it, it should not be your make all or break all. Social media is meant to be used as a tool to benefit our lives and contribute value to the people, communities, and society around you.

Erin is a professional writer who covers various health topics. She contributes to a number of sites including Wellnessaurus, SivanaEast, Medium, and more. You can see more of her work at erinday.net.

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