Social Media has crept into our lives slowly but surely. And, with gadgets like smartphones that have become exceedingly affordable and common, Social Media accessibility has become a norm. We connect ‘online’ with our friends and family. These platforms give us the ability to interact with anyone we choose, at a time we choose. Yes, it is true that Social Media has helped in breaking down the barriers of time and space, making networking truly possible. But if we look more closely, there have also been some disastrous side-effects, on our health and lifestyles, especially for those of us who have completely succumbed to their constant demand on our attention.
I am sure that there are a number of questions on our minds about how Social Media affects our health and the best ways to tackle these issues. In this post, I will discuss the health-impacts in the utmost detail. I will reiterate the needs of the body, for essentials like food, water, exercise and mental stimulus, and how Social Media compulsions maybe taking away from these. As a health coach and as a mom, I have first-hand information on the breakdown that comes when we lose control and let aspects beyond ourselves take charge of our lives. This is why my aim is to simply create awareness, so you may prepare, prevent and overcome some dire consequences.
1. Things are Never Picture Perfect
The glossy images of models in great shape are splayed across all Social Media channels that we browse. For many of us, this is creating an unnatural expectation to shed weight, through unhealthy habits. ‘Thinspiration’ a Social Media created buzz, supporting anorexia, and habits that encourage ‘purging’ food out of the system as a means to lose weight, is a disturbing but true fact of our world.
Then, there are pictures of mouth-watering foods that are creating an altogether different frenzy. Some images are so sensational that they create an instant trigger and craving for fast food, sugary foods and even drinks.
2. Eating Disorders
Research has proven that continuous Social Media engagement causes the release of the neurochemical – Dopamine. This leads to a ‘dopamine high’ affecting our brains the same way drugs do. Dopamine has also been known as a ‘reward molecule’ associated with the feeling of ‘anticipation’, ‘achievement’ and ‘accomplishment’. And, when we ‘share’, ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on Social Media posts, our actions trigger a dose of the neurochemical. Combined with our sedentary lifestyles, this can pose a problem. But overindulgence creates a ‘craving’ that can only be relieved if we continue indulging and living in the sense of social reinforcement.
The truly ugly consequences of this vicious cycle of overindulgence are, – low self-esteem, losing morale, lack of attention and constant need for validation. Our food habits are altered in this state of anxiety where we binge eat or eat unhealthy foods that directly impact our health.
3. Unwholesome Competition
There is a place for role models in our lives, whom we look up to and aspire to emulate. Social Media has exposed us to another kind of people – a friend who travelled to an exotic destination, or another who won a prize, or yet another, who dines at the finest restaurants in the city. The truth is that these people may or may not be leading satisfying lives, yet we envy them. We compete with them, either consciously or subconsciously, and modify our own life goals to accommodate the unwholesome obsessions. And when we fail, we experience depression.
What we need to understand is that Social Media is pertinent. It has made our lives easier and at times even liveable. It comes to our aid when we want to explore our hobbies or drive away loneliness, and even when we want to cultivate better habits. It is probably unwise to quit the Social Media stage completely, given all this. So how then do we manage? The answer lies in moderation. Seek to moderate the use of your devices. Unplug. Enjoy all aspects of your life, go out in nature, read books, talk to people, if you have the time and inclination, travel a bit and but most of all seek ‘balanced living’!