This is a hard question to answer but I’ll try to do my best. In reading this I hope that you are able to ask yourself the same question, specifically: is it healthy for you, and those around you?! I hope to bring forward some concepts and concerns to ponder and evaluate and find what is best for you.
I recently read and highly recommend Jaron Lanier’s book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now”. I have been inspired by this book and have had my eyes opened. To be honest I feel quite naive and in truth I probably wasn’t really looking hard enough at these questions before because the answers were uncomfortable and complicated.
I have never used Social Media much personally. For a start I found it to be very time consuming, in a world where we are already very busy. I’m a very social person by nature and have found that I can live a very full and rewarding social life without using Social Media. I’m a sensitive, empathetic person, so I was also aware of how social media could make people feel left out, depressed, jealous etc. However, when I became a Health Coach, I was taught that in order to become successful I was going to have to put myself out there on some platforms as that was the nature of the new world of business advertising, so… reluctantly I started. If I’m being candid, I’m still not totally comfortable with it. I initially looked at what other Health Coaches were doing for inspiration and found some of it to be unauthentic and mundane. To me it was representing a lot of what I already didn’t like on Social Media:, a “look at me” culture, obsessed with posting vignettes of the “perfect life”, things that I know to be part of an unhealthy attitude. I have attempted to post in a way that I hope offers people some value, tips and inspiration to move towards a healthier lifestyle.
There’s a lot of benefit to Social Media and I don’t want to deny that or anyone that. However, as with most things in life there are two sides. I want to make you aware of them so you can make an educated decision on what is right for you. This is a process. I myself am still assessing and researching how and what is the best path to move forward for myself and my family.
I’m going to start with the negative social impacts social media has. Unfortunately, there are endless examples, so I’m only going to list the most impactful in my opinion.
Depression and anxiety. Social Medial is linked to depression and anxiety. While most of us sign up with the intention to get connected and keep in touch ironically it can leave many people feeling exactly the opposite.
Have you ever considered why Facebook shows how many friends you have? If this isn’t the easiest way to put social pressure on people then I don’t know what is? Not to mention it’s a great way to get you to encourage more people to use the same social media platform you are using “hey, why not connect with me on Facebook?” [so I can have another “friend” and be more popular]: “Ok, I’ll connect with you” [so I’m not being left out of what everyone else is doing] – nice marketing, Facebook!
Social pressure has moved from “keeping up with the Joneses” to “keeping up with everyone living their best lives”. It is totally normal but also unhealthy to compare, but Social Media seems to suck the best of us into this hole.
Cyberbullying – I think most people I know can relate to this in some form. Whether it’s as simple as being misunderstood in a post, or something taken out of context, to public shaming or straight-out harassment. Unfortunately there have been some cases with serious consequences here (mental health issues, suicide,) and it’s something to consider when going on social media yourself, or when deciding to allow your children on it.
Unrealistic Expectations – It is natural to want to post good moments and share positive things and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. However, if that is all we are sharing the perception becomes perfection: sunny days, great hair, great skin, success, new cars, holidays, new babies, weddings, athleticism, everyone living their best lives always… it is not authentic. Again, while the intention is good it can often have the adverse effect that people no longer have realistic expectations for their own lives.
Negative Body Image – There became a trend along the way to also show off the great bodies on Social Media, particularly with gyms and weight loss programs flashing their before and after pictures. People are proud of their achievements, I get it. However, when posting a picture, I wonder if it would have the same effect to tell the story behind the picture. I’m going to give one example: a woman with a chiselled 8-pack of abs. What woman hasn’t longed to have the same cut abs as fit men? The reason why this is hard is because women naturally have more fat around the abdomen (called the greater omentum) than men. This is not to torture us, but to protect a potential fetus and to have extra fat reserves to feed a baby. For a woman to achieve the cut abs look requires much more work than for men, and I would even argue is an unhealthy rejection of what is supposed to be. For most woman, the story behind that 8-pack picture could involve extreme dedication to that look: working out twice a day; measuring and weighing food; very little carbohydrate intake; starvation; dehydration; hormonal imbalance; social isolation; obsession; anxiety – just to name a few. Is all of that worth it to attain that look? That is for the individual to answer, however, a picture that gets liked and comments of encouragement that enforces that profile to keep up that work doesn’t let people make that educated choice.
Addiction - This is a biggy!!! When I looked this up on the internet, I was surprised to find out there are already Social Media Addiction Centers… enough said! I think anyone that has used Social Media has felt the addiction on some level. Ever found yourself scrolling for ever and not releasing how time went by? Well guess what, that was an invention of Facebook to keep you on it longer. Or how about you are waiting for an appointment, and without thinking about it your hand grabbed for your phone to open up your social media. Or you went to your phone to check something on your calendar and got a notice and now you are on Facebook and what was it again that you were looking for?! How about Instagram stories? When I ask about them most people seem as confused as I do, where is the story. It IS however, a great way to get you posting more frequently with the thought that it will disappear after 24 hours, but guess who is getting more data and who is posting more frequently, us??? These are all minor examples of addictions I mention, not to downplay this because this is a real issue. Facebook has been shown to release dopamine, the same chemical released from sex, eating food, cocaine and gambling, all which have problems with addiction. This small hit keeps us going back for more and more, and for many of us without releasing we are.
Sleep disturbances and sleep deprivation – I suppose this could also fall under addiction and depression because as more people use Social Media (addiction) into the hours of the night research would show it is affecting people’s sleep quality and time they sleep, lack of sleep can also increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. So there are links here! People are going to bed with their phones, bright lights can affect how deep we sleep and the ability to fall asleep. Sometimes people forget to turn their phone on silent and are being woken up by beeping and then even reading messages. This is apparently worse for young people, who actually need more sleep to develop well.
As if this is all is not enough to make us question our usage there is more, so much more. Some forms of Social media such as Facebook, Google/Gmail, Instagram, you know - the big guys, are recording your habits, selling it for a healthy profit and then using that data to manipulate your and everyone else’s behavior. This is quite possibly what scares me the most. Whoever wants to buy this data has the ability to affect our society. I am so guilty here of not reading the fine print and not understanding this. I mean, I feel as if I was being naive, of course these companies have to get paid somehow but oh how we like a free service!! However, one of my favorite sayings is that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. I figured the trade-off was that I being advertised to, but selling my data and making billions from it so that it can be turned right back at me to manipulate my habits… I’m not ok with.
There is plenty evidence of fake news, altering the opinions of voters, interfering in electoral processes of countries using social and again there are plenty of terrible crimes being committed. This has to change! The change starts with us, it starts with education, and action, it starts with me and starts with you.
Initially I thought, well I don’t use Facebook very much and I’m only using Instagram professionally, I don’t think I’m being manipulated or it’s not going to sway my vote. However, I’m still on it, which is supporting the company on some level. I think it is important to send a message to these companies – it is time to change!!!
With all of this to consider, this naturally led me to the discussion of what the heck is Social Media good for? What if anything is healthy about Social Media. Connection, event planning, sharing moments with family and friends.
Are there other platforms to do this?! Of course!!! Here is a respectable list of other places to turn to all with more ethical and transparent methods. Some show you how much you are using your media on the page, some even pay you in bitcoin to use their site!!
I’m still very much assessing and fine tuning my way to move forward with this. Here is where I’m starting!!!
- I’m removing my photos from Facebook!! https://qz.com/1234576/how-to-get-your-photos-off-facebook-and-delete-your-account-fb/ I’m going to continue to contemplate deleting my account and take a break.
- I’m finding another email, other than gmail, that doesn’t read my content and then use it to advertise to me, I'm going to where my personal email is secure and my privacy is respected. Good bye Gmail!
- I’m researching other ways to advertise ethically.
- I’m going to stay off my phone while in the company of others.
- I still occasionally call people, yes – I’m that old school, and I’m going to continue but more than that I’m going to make plans to see people, to have conversations, to ask them about what is happening in their live and I’m going to make new memories with my friends and family.
- I’m going to move to Vero for social media, you can find me there and join the movement to challenge and change Social Media!!! Alternatively you can find me by email or my blog or phone or yes even in the flesh!!! I invite you to join me here, let’s see the change we can make. Vero does not advertise or sell your data and in actually has values!!
This is where I’m committed to starting. I’m not asking you to do what I have done, I’m simply sharing. It is my hope however, that this article brought forward some information, questioning, and evaluation. I can’t answer what amount or which social media is health for you, but I do ask that you ask yourself.
Tips to help with “Healthy Usage of Social Media”
- Consider and research the forms you use, privacy, advertising, data collection, etc.
- Use your phone settings to time or limit the time you use it.
- Ask yourself how you feel after using social media and take note of it.
- Take social media apps off your phone.
- Keep social media out of the bedroom.
- Turn your notifications off and set aside specific time to use social media.
- Think, twice, or three times before you post.
- Be clear about what your purpose is when logging onto a social media site.
Play with a few of these tips and see what happens. I think Social Media can be positive and healthy with conscious effort. This has been a new platform for our time and we have made mistakes, which is part of the process but hopefully the process includes acknowledging those, learning and making changes. We start the future, let’s work together to discuss it and create a great presence and tomorrow!