- Elias Azizi
The Impact of Social Media on One’s Health
By: Elias Azizi, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Fauzia Haque, Editor; Eve Nevelos, Editor in Chief
In the COVID-19 era, teens spend almost their entire day using technology. With Zoom calls throughout the day for school and video chatting with friends at night, a typical teen’s screen time has become shockingly high. Based on Statista, 62% of parents of teens aged 14-17 report that their teens spend more than 4 hours a day on technology since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While using technology, the majority of teens spend most of their time exploring social media platforms. Platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Reddit are typical websites that teenagers browse through. Although scrolling through social media websites may entertainingly pass time, it can have devastating effects on the mental and physical health of adolescents. It is important for one to understand the effects of social media on one’s overall health in order to be able to understand the potential risks.
Effects on mental health
Addiction: when one hears the word ‘addiction’, the most usual thought is to think about alcohol or tobacco. However, social media can also be addicting and can have major effects on mental health. Based on Forbes, a Nottingham Trent University study determined that social media addiction was a true complication. Those who suffer from social media addiction tend to display common traits that are part of the addiction criteria. Social media addicts display neglect of personal life (when something affects one’s everyday life/activities), escapism, and mental preoccupation. To add on, the effects of social media addiction on mental health are evident when one experiences withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms appear when one abstains from using an addictive substance. According to Forbes, a Swansea University study showed that those who stop using social media after regular prolonged use display withdrawal symptoms. The most common withdrawal symptom of social media addicts is anxiety.
Depression: Based on Better Health, depression is defined as the constant feeling of sadness and a loss of interest in everyday activities. It can range in severity from minor to major; not all cases of depression are the same. Social media usage has been shown to cause or lead to depression. According to Very Well Mind, there is a correlation between social media websites like Facebook and depression. A study was conducted in order to determine this correlation. It involved 143 University of Pennsylvania students. These students were split into two groups. One group of students were allowed to use social media without restrictions, whereas the other group was allowed to use social media for only 30 mins a day. The results were that the students who used social media less often (30 minutes/day max) had less severe depressive symptoms than the other group. Thus, the mental health of the students with no restrictions was impacted more severely as they developed more severe depressive symptoms.
Effects on physical health
Eye strain: Eye strain occurs when one’s eyes get tired after staring at something for prolonged periods of time. Since social media websites are quite addicting, its users could easily end up staring at a screen for multiple hours. Staring at the glaring light of an iPad or a laptop for excessively long periods of time will almost always cause eye strain. Based on Medical News Today, certain symptoms of eye strain are blurred vision and dried eyes. Eye strain can also cause pain in different parts of the body like the head or neck.
Reduced physical activity: As stated before, social media addiction is a real thing, and can affect one’s daily life. A social media addiction can definitely reduce one’s physical activity drastically. While addicted to social media, one may desire to scroll through different social media websites throughout the whole day. This will cause one to spend less time outside of technology. By spending less time on non-technology and non-social-media aspects of life, one will lack physical activity and may possibly adapt to a sedentary lifestyle. According to the Mayo Clinic, one should be exercising for at least 30 minutes a day. If one is unable to complete a half-hour of exercise daily due to social media, one may have an addiction.
Reduced sleep: Social media apps are often viewed on computers. Computer screens emit something called ‘blue light’. According to Medical News Today, blue light exposure disrupts a human’s natural circadian rhythm (24 hour cycles). When exposed to blue light, one may find it harder to fall asleep and get the daily rest that all humans need to function properly. A lack of sleep can cause one to be less alert and focused the next day. This can have a negative impact on one’s daily activities like school or work. Thus, the use of social media websites at night can impact and reduce one’s total sleep.
Social media can have quite a big impact on one’s mental and physical health. Exploring social media websites might be amusing, but it is important to not get too carried away. One should limit their daily usage of social media accordingly in order to avoid the negative effects of social media on human health. Based on the Huffington Post, a study showed that a maximum of 30 minutes of social media time daily caused a ‘significant improvement in well-being’ amongst university students. Therefore, one should limit their social media usage to half an hour a day, perhaps an hour if truly necessary. Since the beginning of the pandemic and the rise of virtual learning, teenagers have been spending more and more time on technology. Teens tend to spend a good chunk of their time scrolling through popular social media sites like Facebook and Snapchat. It is important for teens to understand that too much time on social media platforms and technology can have repercussions. The increased use of technology may have become a new norm thanks to COVID-19, but non-technological activities are still a major part of one’s life. One must be able to spend an appropriate amount of time on and off technology each day in order to prevent mental and physical health complications.
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