Social Media Is Slowly Poisoning You

Studies have shown that excessive, compulsive use of social media sites and apps can lead to depression, loneliness and a drop in IQ levels.
Jason Snyman
Technology is changing – fast. This acceleration has inadvertently left most people behind, standing around in the dirt trying to figure out how hashtags work. In 1995, less than 1% of the world had access to the internet. Today, over 40% are online. Technology has changed the way we eat, drive, sleep, exercise, entertain ourselves and even love. Social media has become the new norm. It’s how we obtain our information – or misinformation in some cases – before the news agencies even have time to put their pants on. It’s how we meet new people, stay in touch with old friends and family and how we share the best, optimally filtered versions of our lives. Selfies in Sepia. Job Promotions in Kelvin. Gourmet Lunch in Bokeh effect. For all the good that social media is capable of doing, however, it can be argued that it has done far more harm. It will continue to do so, as we sit around waiting for the likes to roll in. Social media, right at this moment, is changing the way your brain works. Instagram is hurting you. Late night chatting has you sleepwalking through your life. Facebook has you chasing validation from complete strangers. People who you haven't seen for years; whose name you only vaguely recognize, but not their face. They add you as a friend and after you accept them, you never hear from them again. People whose opinions, in all likelihood, do not matter. It has you depressed, angry, envious and feeling all alone. Why then, do we go back again and again?

With Your Finger On The Fading Pulse

We often find ourselves drifting over to Facebook, and most of the time we’re not even aware of it. It has become automatic. It’s a good way to stay up to date and in tune with what’s happening around us – but it comes at a price. We’re bombarded with images of happiness and success. People enjoying their vacations, or getting a nice new car, getting engaged or married, winning awards or receiving praise for their work, etc. We are inundated with the triumphs of others. As a result, we often become more disillusioned with our own lives. Out of spite, green with envy, you may even find yourself ignoring your friends. You may refuse to celebrate their achievements or go out of your way to not ‘like’ their statuses. Social media is full of miserable, lonely people pretending that their lives are all going according to plan. Likewise, we have people who are perfectly fine – but who crave attention so badly that they will pretend to be unhappy. People who have become so boring and tame that their problems have become their actual identities. Social media forces us into playing this game. These platforms ram perfection down our throats every day, all day, until we’re compelled to compete with others for validation. If we were to take Twitter, for example; the only way to be heard is to tweet, all day long. Tweeting every little mundane thought which pops into your head, constantly, ceaselessly, every day without pause or reflection. One little tweet a day just won’t cut it. Your voice will be lost, just a drop in the ocean and then gone forever. We’re ducks in a cage, being force-fed images that evoke lust and envy and feelings of inferiority. How did we get so horribly lost?  

Social Media – Pointing Out The Obvious

Who would have thought that perusing photos of a friend’s two-month long exotic vacation may hurl you headlong into long stretches of existential angst? Who could have guessed that, as connected as we are, just a small difference of opinions can leave people feeling so despairingly isolated? It doesn’t take a genius or a bunch of university research to tell you that social media is making you feel lonely, inadequate and useless. You don’t need an intellectual heavyweight to point out that all we’re really doing is harming ourselves. And you don’t need a champion of thought to show you that it’s all your fault, because you’re the one who keeps pushing that button, like a hopeless addict. It’s almost as if we desire to feel worse, spending our lives with images on a screen and communicating with people who actually wish the social network site goodnight before logging off. “Goodnight, Facebook. I Love You.” In the ultimate twist of irony, social media has made us even more antisocial than ever before. It is true, that becoming popular on social media will boost your self-esteem. This usually means being overly interesting, witty and frequently having to align your own personal views with the mindless masses. Heaven forbid our ideologies might differ. Back in the day, when people annoyed you with their hypochondria and whining and millions of baby photos – you could just ignore them and pretend they didn’t exist. And it was great. The more we use these platforms the more our mental and physical health deteriorates, until we’ll never be satisfied with life. More research is needed, of course, before we can prove this without a doubt – but everybody already senses it. We experience it daily.
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Fight The Urge

Anything in moderation shouldn’t be too detrimental to your health. Unless it’s flakka. Going online from time to time to catch up is a good way to stay up to date and, particularly with Facebook, is a great way to promote your business. If one were to feel those self-defeatist thoughts creeping in, though, it’s probably time to step away for a while. How social media affects you depends on a variety of factors. Lifestyle-focused sites, such as Pinterest or Instagram, might have you comparing yourself negatively to the glamourous ‘highlight reels’ of other people’s lives. In news-heavy sites such as Twitter or Facebook, the relentless flood of images may leave you feeling despondent and depressed. If you can withstand the full force of the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) about to wash over you, studies have shown that quitting all social media for a length of time may improve your mood. You may even be able to fool people into thinking you have an actual social life. Seeing friends or family in person, getting outside and exercising or experiencing life – these are all linked to improved mental health. If one were to assess how social media makes you feel, and if you find that it is replacing the aforementioned aspects of your life, then it may be a good indication that you’re in danger. We feel this pressure, to stay connected and synthetically content. To have multiple accounts and strive for relevance on all of them. Trimming your accounts down to one single platform is a good start. There are healthier things to do than stare at a screen all day long.  

Off Grid

We have, most of us, heard of digital detox or going off grid. With Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat, YouTube, Reddit, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Google Plus (which is like the gym membership of social media accounts – people get it and then never use it) we’re just drowning in social media. Human beings are, inherently, social creatures. Instead of bringing us all together, however, these apps and sites are pulling us apart. It’s all a big game. Here, have a look at my car and my cats and my children and my plants and my DIY pallet furniture and my political opinion and my novel excerpt and my medical bills and my dinner and what I’m doing and where I am and who I’m with. Look at me. Look at me. Remove yourself from the sites causing you to feel even a moment’s worth of insecurity or unhappiness. Block and unfriend people who annoy you. Limit yourself to checking in once or twice a week. We don’t all warrant constant attention and praise, not do we need these things to grow. The success of others does not equal your failure, unless you actively make it so. That’s just a cold, hard fact. Be happy for them and move on with your own goals. Whether you trim your social media compulsions or replace them entirely with healthy alternatives, that’s up to you. The first step is to feeling better, though, is really understanding what happiness isn’t