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15 Ways Social Media Is Harming You

12 January 2021

You’ve Heard ‘Boomers’ Say It All the Time but How Exactly Is Social Media Bad for You?

Social media has certainly been the shakeup of this era in human history. It has been the quintessential definition of modern naval gazing. It allows us to scroll endlessly at people lives that look just like ours, or those that that we aspire to. The truth is that for all its changes and wonder, it seems to be doing more damage than good to our psyche’s.

But if you don’t believe me, then here are 15 Ways Social Media Is Harming You.

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After reading this article, you’ll want to cut down your screen time. Why not do so by switching to the video version of this article:

With that plugged in, let’s begin.

1

It Robs of You of Quality Time With Yourself and Others

Study after study has shown the increased time we are spending scrolling on our phones as opposed to interaction IRL with friends and family. Not only does it outright keep us from seeing and interacting with those we love, it also prevents us from forming new and meaningful relationships.

Journal of Social and Personal Relationships ran a study asking 34 pairs of strangers to have a conversation. Half in the presence of a phone on the table, half without. There was a huge difference in the quality of conversation, and also in the group’s positive perception of the other person based on the phone’s presence.

Obviously those with a phone in eye-shot were not as engaged in the conversation, and less likely to consider the person for a future friendship among other findings. It makes you think though, how many opportunities have we missed because we have the safety blanket of our phones to shut out the world?

2

It Increases Anxiety and Depression

A huge amount of research has been published about the links of anxiety and social media use. One study published in the journal Computers and Human Behaviour showed that those using 7 or more social platforms are 3 times more likely to experience anxiety than those using 2 or less platforms.

The link between depression and social media is a lot more complicated and is often linked to the quality of interactions. There are many different ways to experience social media. It could also be a place where people find their tribe and can access support.

Two studies we found of over 700 students found that depressive symptoms were higher among those who reported more negative interactions. Negative interactions were listed as bullying, feeling time spent on these platforms was wasted, and being exposed to a distorted view of other people’s lives.

It’s a bit chicken and egg in some studies though, does social media attract and hook more anxious people in the first place? Either way, if you’re experiencing anxiety or depression you should seek professional help and consider your social media usage.

3

Sleep Is Affected Dramatically

It’s a well-known fact that all the artificial light of modern life has disrupted our natural sleep rhythm and is inhibiting the body’s production of melatonin. But even after the lights are out we continue to stare into the blue light of our screens well into the night.

This interaction with our phone and laptop is a main contributor of “blue light” emissions in our daily life. The bright light at bed completely messes with the circadian sleep rhythm as does the “obsessive checking” twitch we develop as notification icons reel us back in every time, we’re about to put our phone down. This shot of adrenalin and endorphins gives us mental stimulation and we’re awake again.

More on these notification hits in a bit.

4

It Makes You Spend Money Unnecessarily

Scrolling through lavish feeds of travel, music events and fine dining images might not just be driving up your jealousy, but also your credit card debt.

The 2019 Schwab’s 2019 Modern Wealthy survey found that 49 percent of millennials have been influenced by social media to spend more than they should on experiences.  The Journal of Consumer Research also linked heavy social media use to higher levels of credit card debt and higher body mass index. So not only is social media harming you by driving you into debt, it’s making you fat!

Spending money isn’t always a bad thing. Check out 15 Things You Should Spend Your Money On.

5

It’s Completely Addictive

Social media is built around compulsive behaviours; it literally plays on all the flaws in our biological make-up that lead to us getting completely hooked without realising it.

As early as 2011, Daria Kuss and Mark Griffiths from Nottingham Trent University in the UK analysed 43 previous studies about social media addiction and concluded that it is a mental health problem that “may” require professional treatment. Today we already have many facilities and treatment programmes available that help people free themselves from this addiction and it is a classified disorder.

If you want to start to gain independence and recovery from social media begin by disabling notification bells, buttons and icons that will keep you checking out of curiosity. It will also mean that your attention isn’t always interrupted with beeps and pings all day long.

Next try to disable or uninstall some apps from your phone so that you don’t have constant access everywhere you go and you can rather engage  with your physical environment and get real life positive experiences that reinforce you rather than likes and shares.

If your addiction worries you or is affecting your life, then we highly encourage you consult with a professional.

6

Social Media Interferes With Obligations

While you were scrolling your dog didn’t get walked, your grades dropped and your boss overlooked you for another promotion. Social media is sapping your time and energy and distracting you from your real life obligations.

While we love that you’re dedicated to read our Alux articles as they drop we would never want it to get in the way of you living a life that builds you towards your goals. That’s why we drop one solid article a day, and let you go on your merry way.

Unfortunately not all social media platforms feel the same. They unashamedly keep you scrolling for as long as humanly possible and as soon as they feel your attention wane they drop a notification that strings you back in again.

All that time spent liking, re-tweeting, commenting, and copying TikTok dances isn’t going to get you to billionaire status, give you a happy marriage or tick off any items on your bucket list. That’s not truly participating, that’s just being a bystander. So don’t let social media interfere with your responsibilities anymore, go forth and conquer Aluxers!

7

Envy and Low Self-Esteem and FOMO

No one has ever fallen in love with anyone because they were so awesomely jealous! But one of the leading emotions that social media leaves us feeling is envy. This unattractive virtue caused what is known as an “envy spiral” on social media.

When people feel envious about seeing someone else’s travel photos they end up posting similar images to their profile proliferating the kind of content that made them jealous in the first place. How sh*t is that?

Not all envy is negative, but we’re not talking about the kind that motivates you to work harder. Social media often makes us feel hopeless, helpless, and overwhelmed. Which plays havoc on our self-esteem. This FOMO makes us compare our lives to these social media representations of other people’s lives and feel dissatisfied with our reality which doesn’t always lead to action, but rather inaction.

8

You Can’t Figure Out What Is Real

Not only is it hard to know if people really have such huge doe eyes, or if it’s just a filter, but it is also a struggle to get to the bottom of fact versus fiction. Social media has us believing some pretty trippy stuff when we go down a rabbit hole of misinformation.

You might have been firm on your opinion that 5G has no link to Covid-19, but after a read of a high-school classmates re-share of a conspiracy theory and then two suggested videos and what looks like a legit news article you are signing up to burn down a cell tower in the middle of the night.

Okay this might seem completely farfetched for a sensible Aluxer, but the truth is, flat earthers, anti-vaxxers and lizard shape-shifter groups all got their hold on mass followings using social media.

But here’s the truth: When you start looking into a topic, social media is designed to keep feeding you the next piece of content on that topic because you have shown an interest and their only goal is to keep you there for longer.

Just because there are more and more articles justifying the means and a ton of followers doesn’t make something more credible. Trust scientific fact that is peer reviewed by experts and you won’t get caught up in the hype, sell all your earthly possessions and move into a bunker.

9

You Struggle to Connect With People IRL

There was a time in the innocent days of social media when it was still a reflection of the fun we were having in real life. Ironically, now so much social media interaction is affecting our ability to really participate IRL. Being able to fire back quick one line responses without seeing someone’s emotional response on their face is creating emotionally inexperienced people.

Not having to navigate a situation through because you can just block someone if you share something vulnerable and it isn’t as well received isn’t teaching us resilience or any of the skills we need to thrive in a social society.

Building relationships and connecting with people is so much more than LOL-ing at a cat meme, or sharing one riled up opinion about plastic straws. We forget that before we align with a tribe there are some social nuances in real life that are missed on social media platforms.

So when we have to engage in a more intersectional way with people, social media hasn’t equipped us to see people as a mother, woman, professional, neighbour or single, only as someone with opposite views who should be opposed. When in real life there is far more to interactions than just having aligning or opposite political views.

10

Online Bullying and Toxic Relationships Are Formed

When birds are kept in captivity, particularly chickens, a natural pecking order will appear. However, in situations that are high stress or overcrowded or because of boredom a flock might begin pecking and de-feathering each other. Often, they pick on one chicken and can seriously hurt each other, it’s pretty savage how they get when they see blood.

Farmers do all kinds of things to stop this, from red lights to red contact lenses so that the chickens can’t see blood, to putting cloth saddles on hurt chickens to the most heinous solution; debeaking chickens. It sounds so inhumane.

But it also sounds a lot like Twitter. After a particularly savage attack someone might be blocked or bullied into silence. Platforms add more hate filters and increase AI sensitivity. But like the farmers they don’t address the problems of stress or overcrowding, or in this case, intolerance and perhaps a breakdown of real community.

If you’re acting more like a frenzied chicken in the fray than an evolved human, then perhaps take a look at your social media habits before you hurt someone or yourself.

If you or someone you know is experiencing online bullying or a toxic relationship we encourage them to seek professional help to gain independence and healing.

11

It Can Activate Your Reward Centre

We mentioned we would come back to this point. By now most of you would have heard something like getting a notification on social media is like gambling or a line of cocaine, but what is really behind these claims?

In the 1930s, psychologist B.F Skinner first described dopamine hits that were linked to food, exercise, love, sex, gambling, and drugs being stronger when there was a variable reward schedule. In other words, not being able to predict the positive reward because it is delivered randomly. Social media has been modelled around this human weakness and scientific discovery.

Neuroscientists studying brain reactions found that positive notifications such as a like or share trigger the same chemical reaction as gambling, sex or drugs.

But the real clincher is that social media addiction exploits these broken pathways in our brains and the brain rewires itself making our need for retweets, likes, and emoji responses insatiable. To the point that it affects our mood, sense of confidence and self-worth and keeps us stuck in this spiral of dopamine highs and lows.

12

You Struggle to Think Independently

Like with the chicken explanation, social media is creating a lot of “us and them” polarising. Instead of being able to assess the facts and draw a considered or nuanced opinion, we are riled up into passionate campaigning on topics that aren’t as near to us, or even driving real change.

Herd mentality, was once known as mob mentality and is the kind of witch-hunt nonsense that historical injustices like the Salem Witch Trials or various genocides should have taught us to avoid by now.

If you find yourself getting caught up in a moment of keyboard rage or going down a rabbit hole of information that might be one-sided, take a few steps back and check some opposing views from trusted sources. Know yourself and your beliefs, and use your intellect.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself…or more importantly your relationships and reputation.

13

Despite Being Connected It Causes Loneliness

Social media isn’t all the web of connectedness it makes it out to be. Just like having more or less options in the chocolate aisle doesn’t cure our craving.

Of 7,000 people from 19 to 32 years old surveyed by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, those who spent the most time on social media were twice as likely to report experiencing social isolation. So although essentially being “social” most of the day, they were not feeling a sense of fulfilling relationships and belonging.

The main reason is that time spent on social media displaces interacting face to face. This drives up an idealised representation of relationships with others that can’t be matched in real life. It becomes a vicious cycle of sabotaging real time relationships for glossy fictional constructed social posts that don’t bring real fulfilment.

If you’re feeling lonely or isolated we encourage you to reach out for some face to face help by someone you can trust or a professional.

14

We Exercise Less and Become Unhealthier and More Unfit

If given the option of going for a run or staying under the covers with our phones in hand – the far easier option is number 2.

Imagine if you took all those additional minutes, no hours, you spend on social media every day and converted them into time spent exercising, how freaking fit and hot you’d look! Your self-confidence will be over-flowing, you’ll look amazing in whatever you’re wearing, and you’ll feel fabulous.

Aluxers, ditch the phone. The moment you’re about to scroll, walk up and down your passage 10 times, grab a skipping rope and do 20 jumps… the more you do this, the easier it will become.

15

Social Media Is Infantilizing the Brain Into the State of Small Children

What do small children love? Buzzing noises and bright lights. How many times can a child listen to the same song without getting tired of it? Think about the tantrum’s children have when their desires are not immediately attended to. Instant gratification is what it’s all about when we’re small children.

Our brains become like children on social media according to many experts. We have short attention spans, we cannot empathise with people, we don’t really know who we are, and we are only drawn to sensationalism.

We label people with Attention Deficit Disorder, or other similar conditions. The only thing is that we’re not having social interactions and conversations like we used to in the past. We don’t know how to behave or socially interact with others anymore, and it shows.

If we are truly honest with ourselves, we don’t want to be scrolling all the time. It’s draining, demotivating and soul-destroying.

Put down the phone, go out and climb a mountain and start creating meaningful relationships with yourself and others.

Question

Aluxers, what have you done to help curb your desire to continue scrolling? Share your advice and guidance with us, we’d love to hear from you.