Back when research into social media was in its nascency, a link was already being established between its use and some potentially nasty side effects for your personal image. In a study published in the Journal of Website Promotion (catchy name), researchers discovered that including strangers in your friends list has a negative impact on self-esteem. It’s now taken as read that spending excess time looking at selfies skews your self-image.
…and your breathing. A study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science saw a notable uptick in bad posture, neck problems and even respiratory difficulties in participants with the highest social media usage. Your head weighs a lot. Leaning it forward to get closer to Emily Ratajkowski’s latest swimwear is doing a number on your neck.
The more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to be depressed, says a study in the Journal of Depression and Anxiety. The researchers didn’t just point to general correlations; their test found that it’s doubly damaging to people who curate false lives online, presenting an exciting version of themselves that’s hard to maintain offline. Finding the right light for your abs or always having an aesthetically interesting dinner can be exhausting.
Social media negativity became a trending topic itself after Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice president for growth at Facebook, came out and said: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works.” He’s since qualified those comments, but his sentiment was clear: likes and smileys rip the nuance out of important conversations.
Danish researchers analysed over 1,000 people and concluded that the online world makes us unhappy. They made particular reference to those who suffer ‘Facebook envy’ being at most risk of depression, due to constant insidious ‘social comparison’ (think of all the times you’ve punished yourself by looking through the holiday snaps of a seemingly richer, taller, handsomer, more awesomer connection). Dislike.
It’s important to note that all these negatives are based on over and improper use of social media. Some studies suggest it can, in fact, be a force for good, especially when you don’t spend more time on virtual relationships than real ones. A paper published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication found a direct correlation between intensity of Facebook usage and life satisfaction, civic trust and political engagement. Done right, social makes you more, well, social.
The best social media diet involves intermittent fasting. That Danish research into ‘Facebook envy’ and the unhappiness it creates also found that a week-long stint offline equals an increase in both life satisfaction and personal well-being.
Blaming social media for sadness is like blaming cake for putting on a few extra pounds. Facebook themselves have recently acknowledged that improper use can be troublesome, but that’s down to how you use it. Mindlessly scoff down fistfuls of nonsense, and you’re on your way to an addiction and poor mental health, they say. Properly engage and comment, and the experience is much more rewarding.
Check your friends. Following someone like YouTube millionaire Casey Neistat due to #goals is likely just giving you major envy. Equally, finding #inspo in a fitness influencer’s daily selfies is, according to Australian scientists, probably chipping away at your body image, too. Plus, as the earlier study stated, too many strangers equals low self-esteem.
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