Six ways so­cial me­dia can neg­a­tively af­fect your health

The Gulf Today - Panorama - - Front Page - by Sab­rina Barr


The rise of so­cial me­dia has meant that we as a global pop­u­la­tion are more con­nected than we have ever been in the his­tory of time.

How­ever, our re­liance on so­cial me­dia can have a detri­men­tal ef­fect on our men­tal health, with the av­er­age per­son check­ing their phone as much 28 times a day.

While so­cial me­dia plat­forms can have their beneits, us­ing them too

fre­quently can make you feel in­creas­ingly un­happy and iso­lated in the long run.

The con­stant bar­rage of per­fectly il­tered pho­tos that

ap­pear on In­sta­gram are bound to knock many peo­ple’s self-es­teem, while ob­ses­sively check­ing your Twit­ter feed just be­fore bed could be con­tribut­ing to­wards poor

qual­ity of sleep.

Here are six ways that so­cial me­dia could be neg­a­tively af­fect­ing your men­tal health without you even re­al­is­ing.


We all have our fair share of in­se­cu­ri­ties, some that we speak about openly and oth­ers that we pre­fer to keep to our­selves.

How­ever, com­par­ing your­self to oth­ers on so­cial me­dia by stalk­ing their aes­thet­i­cally per­fect In­sta­gram pho­tos or stay­ing up to date with their re­la­tion­ship sta­tus on Face­book could do lit­tle to as­suage your feel­ings of self-doubt.

A study con­ducted by the Univer­sity of Copen­hagen found that many peo­ple suf­fer from “Face­book envy”, with those who ab­stained from us­ing the pop­u­lar site re­port­ing that they felt more satisied with

their lives.

“When we de­rive a sense of worth based on how we are do­ing rel­a­tive to oth­ers, we place our hap­pi­ness in a vari­able that is com­pletely be­yond our con­trol,” Dr Tim Bono, au­thor of When Likes Aren’t Enough ex­plained in Health­ista.

Be­com­ing more con­scious of the amount of time you spend scrolling through other peo­ple’s on­line proiles could help you

fo­cus more on your­self and boost your self­conidence.

Hu­man con­nec­tion

As hu­man be­ings, it’s so im­por­tant for us to be able to com­mu­ni­cate and forge per­sonal con­nec-

tions with one an­other.

How­ever, it can be hard to do so when we’re glued to rec­tan­gu­lar screens, be­com­ing more ac­quainted with our friends’ dig­i­tal fa­cades than their real-life per­sonas.

Stina San­ders, a for­mer model who has 107,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram, ex­plained how so­cial me­dia some­times makes her feel like she’s be­ing left out.

“I know from my ex­pe­ri­ence I can get FOMO when I see my friend’s pho­tos of a party I didn’t go to, and this, in turn, can make me feel quite lonely and anx­ious,” she told The In­de­pen­dent.

A study pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Epi­demi­ol­ogy that as­sessed 5,208 subjects found that over­all, reg­u­lar use of Face­book had a neg­a­tive im­pact on an in­di­vid­ual’s well-be­ing.


So­cial me­dia can be great for look­ing back fondly on mem­o­ries and re­count­ing how past

events oc­curred.

How­ever, it can also dis­tort the way in which you re­mem­ber cer­tain tid­bits from your life.

Many of us are guilty of spend­ing far too much time try­ing to take the per­fect photo of a visual marvel, all the while not ac­tu­ally ab­sorb­ing the irst­hand ex­pe­ri­ence of

wit­ness­ing it with your own two eyes.

“If we di­rect all of our at­ten­tion to­ward cap­tur­ing the best shots for our so­cial me­dia fol­low­ers to ad­mire, less will be avail­able to en­joy other as­pects of the ex­pe­ri­ence in real time,” said Dr Bono.

“Spend­ing too much time on our phones will de­tract from those other as­pects of the ex­pe­ri­ence, un­der­min­ing the hap­pi­ness we could be glean­ing from them.”


Hav­ing enough sleep is of para­mount im­por­tance.

How­ever, many of us use our phones too soon be­fore choos­ing the hit the hay, mak­ing it harder to doze off.

“Get­ting worked up with anx­i­ety or envy from what we see on so­cial me­dia keeps the brain on high alert, pre­vent­ing us from falling asleep,” ex­plained Dr Bono.

“Plus, the light from our mo­bile de­vice just inches from our face can sup­press the re­lease of mela­tonin, a hor­mone that helps us feel tired.”

Try set­ting your­self a strict rule of not go­ing on your phone for at least 40 min­utes to an hour be­fore go­ing to bed, and see if that makes a dif­fer­ence to the qual­ity of your sleep.

At­ten­tion span

It’s not just your sub­con­scious brain that you need to worry about, but also the ex­tent to which your brain is able to fully con­cen­trate when you’re awake.

While it’s in­cred­i­ble to con­sider the amount of in­for­ma­tion read­ily avail­able at our in­ger­tips thanks to so­cial me­dia, it also means that peo­ple have be­come far more eas­ily dis­tracted.

“So­cial me­dia has pro­vided a means of con­stantly giv­ing into the temp­ta­tion of in­stant, easy-ac­cess en­ter­tain­ment,” said Dr Bono.

If you’re un­able to not check your phone for at least a few min­utes, then you’d do well to prac­tise ex­er­cis­ing your willpower on oc­ca­sion.

Men­tal health

Not only has so­cial me­dia been proven to cause un­hap­pi­ness, but it can also lead to the de­vel­op­ment of men­tal health is­sues such as anx­i­ety or de­pres­sion when used too much or without cau­tion.

In March, it was re­ported that more than a third of Gen­er­a­tion Z from a sur­vey of 1,000 in­di­vid­u­als stated that they were quit­ting so­cial me­dia for good as 41 per cent stated that so­cial me­dia plat­forms make them feel anx­ious, sad or de­pressed.

Ben Ja­cobs, a DJ who has more than 5,000 fol­low­ers on Twit­ter, de­cided to go on a hia­tus from the plat­form in Jan­uary 2016 and has

found the break re­ally bene­i­cial.

“Twit­ter did in­deed make me feel anx­ious from time to time as it slowly dawned on me I was con­cern­ing my­self with the feel­ings of the thou­sands of strangers I fol­lowed, while they didn’t nec­es­sar­ily know who I was,” he said.

“Since my Twit­ter hia­tus, I have had a clearer head with plenty of time to de­vote to other things such as wak­ing up in a cold sweat at

3am and read­ing a book in­stead.”

While you don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to quit so­cial me­dia for good, if you feel like it’s be­gin­ning to bog you down, why not con­sider al­lo­cat­ing so­cial me­di­afree time slots dur­ing your daily rou­tine? The slight change could do you a whole lot of good.

Stalk­ing In­stagam and com­par­ing your­self to oth­ers on so­cial me­dia is bad for your self-es­teem.

Many of us are dam­ag­ing hu­man con­nec­tions pre­fer­ring to spend more time star­ing at our phones in­stead of the peo­ple in front of us.

Try to live in the mo­ment and ap­pre­ci­ate what is around you without shar­ing it on so­cial me­dia.

Us­ing your phone in bed can make it harder to doze off.

So­cial me­dia has been proven to cause anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion when used too much.

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