It seems like there’s a new social media platform emerging every day. Between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, we spend more time hunched over, immersing ourselves into a digital world, than we ever have before. It’s not surprising, therefore, that this can take a toll on our physical and emotional health.
If you’ve ever been consumed by social media, you’ve probably noticed the effect it can have on your life. But have you ever really thought about its full impact on your well-being? Here are some of the risks you face when you give social media the upper hand.
If you scan a room full of people, you’ll immediately know which ones are looking at their phone, because they’ve assumed “the position.” Incredibly, one study found that the way we hold our heads as we use handheld devices can put roughly 60 pounds of pressure on our spines! Many have also experienced discomfort in their thumbs, elbows, back and wrists.
It’s incredible that something so small can create such a ripple effect in our bodies. Of course, stretching, yoga and/or massage can help alleviate the discomfort. But it’s hard to imagine that “likes” and “faves” are worth the physical strain.
You’re scrolling through your feed, smiling at pictures of friends enjoying life, babies laughing, and cats chasing lasers. All is right in the world…until you come across a strongly-worded political rant by a friend, or you’re hit with a scathing comment on one of your own posts. It feels like a punch in the gut.
Unsurprisingly, research has shown that social media can take you on a roller coaster of emotions, many of them negative. It’s important to be mindful of how engaging with others on these platforms can affect our self-esteem and sense of well-being.
Remember the days when you could go out to dinner and never see a cell phone on a table? People were actually looking at and talking to each other. Instead of taking pictures of their food, they held eye contact, enjoyed their food, and paid attention to their surroundings. These days, it seems that “date night” has turned into another date with your phone.
Worst of all, people are bringing their smartphones to bed. Not only does this negatively impact your sleep quality, it affects your intimate relationships. If you’re checking your phone as you turn in at night, you’re not really paying attention to your partner.
Those end-of-the-day conversations and private times are vital to maintaining intimacy in your relationship. No amount of scrolling is worth sacrificing that.
Social media can affect your relationships in a variety of ways. Sometimes, it’s a vehicle for inauthenticity. For instance, you may find yourself pretending to be happier than you truly are just to keep up appearances. You might be so invested in being “Facebook official” with your partner that you don’t end a relationship when you should.
You might even have people in your list of friends that you don’t really know or like. Since unfriending or blocking will be noticed, you might just be keeping these people around to keep the peace. No technology should hold that kind of power over us.
Everything we see on social media is shared with the intention of sending a certain message. It’s a snapshot of a single moment in time, but it doesn’t always reflect the bigger picture. As a result, we essentially create a virtual reality shaped by the small number of people with whom we are connected.
The problem is that when we immerse ourselves into this illusory digital world, it can feel as though our real lives are boring and unfulfilling. Users can be left feeling lonely and depressed. We should always remember that the virtual world cannot replace what we actually see and feel around us.
Is It All Bad?
While social media has its drawbacks, there are definitely some upsides as well. We can be inspired by other people’s progress, share recipes and ideas, and quickly reach out to someone in a time of need. There are fundraising efforts, networking opportunities, and the valuable ability to keep up with friends and family who are far away.
The bottom line is that, just like with everything else, moderation is key. If you feel like your social media interactions are having a negative effect on your body, emotional health, or relationships, it’s probably best to take a step back. Consider temporarily deactivating your accounts, if necessary; you can always come back.
Remember, there’s no filter on any platform that could ever compete with reality. Live your life with balance, smile with your friends, look people in the eye, and enjoy your life without filtering it through a screen
Jeanne Croteau is an adjunct psychology and social sciences professor as well as a contributing writer for ForbesLife, Social Moms, and more. As a married mother of six, she strongly believes in living a healthy lifestyle and enjoys being outdoors, cooking, and watching hockey.