What is the one thing that has the power to consume your time, distract you from your work, make you feel both lonely and connected, increase anxiety, and mess up your sleep?
Sure, it can help us keep in touch, but it can also help us feel terrible. Countless studies have shown that social media has some pretty nasty effects on people.
That constant checking? It can cause anxiety. It also decreases your ability to concentrate long-term, because your brain gets used to switching back and forth between tasks so quickly.
Also, social media has been found to make people feel lonelier. One thing we humans are good at is comparing ourselves to others, and social media is a great place to do that and wreck your mental health.
Having Facebook friends you rarely talk to or just giving an occasional “like” is far from “connectedness.” Instead of making our friendships deeper, social media helps to make them wider, which isn’t healthy from a social wellness point of view. It’s better to have rich relationships than to have many acquaintances, and social media can easily steer us away from this.
On top of all that, the actual content of social media can be pretty toxic. Sexual photos, politically charged anger, horrendous footage of abuse, and fake news can crowd out the social aspect of social media altogether.
So what’s a person to do?
Well, you could quit social media altogether, like this talk by Cal Newport suggests. I don’t think it’s a bad idea.
You could also find some ways to use social media more intentionally. By this, I mean avoiding aimlessly scrolling or falling down the rabbit hole until you’re on your cousin’s friend’s ex’s mom’s page. I mean not wasting time and finding ways to make sure you feel happier after using social media, not like you just lost an hour of your life.
Some ideas to use social media more intentionally: