Social media has become an integral part of our lives and most people would say they couldn’t function properly without their smartphones.
This modern day wonder has brought with it a sense of community that didn’t exist previously. It connects people on a global scale and is an important tool for sharing and communicating.
But it has also brought with it a wave of depression and anxiety. A survey of 1479 young people, by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK, showed just how damaging social media, in particular Instagram, can be on young people’s mental health.
Engaging with social media releases the chemical dopamine in our brain, resulting in a greater addictive effect than one would get from cigarettes, alcohol or gambling.
Additional factors include the constant comparison to what is only a fraction of someone else’s life, the constant feeling of not being good enough compared to others’ hyper-edited photographs, and the constant feeling of missing out or lack of accomplishment.
Of course, social media is not all bad news. Despite all the criticism, it does have a positive effect on self-expression and self-identity. What makes it harmful is the amount of time we spend obsessing over its content. It’s recommended that we don’t spend more than two hours daily on social networking sites. With many of us scrolling either right before bed or right after waking, a good way of maintaining balance is to get an old-fashioned alarm clock and keep your phone out in the living room.
We are so accustomed to constantly being on our phones that we don’t even realise it’s doing us harm. But as with any addiction, we need to set boundaries and make sure a carefully curated online world doesn’t take over our reality.