“…Sometimes you have go to take a break from all the noise to appreciate the beauty of silence…” – Robert Tew
This week our #WellnessWednesday blog write-up comes from Dr Colleen Vassiliou our College Head. She talks about the effects that social media has on us. She was inspired to write this piece after watching the Netflix series The Social Dilemma.
While social media can seem like mindless and relaxing fun, it actually has a significant effect on your brain. Whenever you log on to your favourite apps, dopamine signals in your brain increase. These neurotransmitters are associated with pleasure. When you experience more dopamine after using social media, your brain identifies this activity as a rewarding one that you ought to repeat. Such a reaction may be more felt whenever you make a post of your own and gain positive feedback.
The positive feelings experienced during social media use are only temporary. The way your brain engages in this positive reinforcement is also seen in other addictions. Thus, as the feel-good dopamine wears off, you’ll go back to the source (in this case, social media) for more.
In some cases, social media can be a welcome distraction if you’re isolated due to work or an illness. The more you engage, the more your brain will tell you that this is an activity that can help reduce loneliness (which may not necessarily be the case, actually).
Some possible downsides of social media include:
- low self-esteem, which may be prompted by incorrect perceptions that others’ lives are “better” than yours
- increased isolation and loneliness
- anxiety or depression, reduced ability to empathise with others
- onset of social anxiety disorder
- a fear of missing out (FOMO), which can lead to even more social media usage
- disrupted sleep patterns, especially if you use social media right before bedtime
- decreased physical activity, which may affect your overall health
- poor grades or work performance
- ignoring the relationships in your “real” life
Consider the following tips to help you achieve a healthier balance with social media:
- Delete your social media apps from your smartphone. While you can still access them from your personal computer, keeping them off your phone may help decrease the amount of time spent on social media overall.
- Turn off your personal phone during work, as well as during school, meals, and recreational activities. You can also adjust the setting on each social media app so you can turn off certain notifications.
- Set aside a certain amount of time dedicated to social media per day. Turn on a timer to help keep you accountable.
- Leave your phone, tablet, and computer out of your bedroom.
- Take up a new hobby that’s not technology-related. Examples include sports, art, cooking classes, and more.
- Make it a point to see your friends and family in person when possible.
It’s also important to take regular breaks from social media altogether to help find some real-life grounding.
Depending on your needs, your break can last for 1 day per week, a whole month, or an entire season. Let yourself be in control of this decision — not your social media account. Social media is increasingly omnipresent today, but this doesn’t mean you’ll automatically develop an addiction to it.
By taking frequent breaks and setting clear boundaries for yourself and your children, you can help prevent an overreliance on social media before it becomes harmful. https://www.healthline.com/health/social-media-addiction#downsides