“There are a lot of pros and cons about social media; it’s just how you choose to handle it and how you have to be prepared for the negatives as well.”
~ Aubrey Peeples
Pros and cons, folks, pros and cons. Humans use social media as they have with nearly every other technology before it: for good and bad.
On the one hand, social media brings people together: family, friends, and those who could not otherwise communicate. We create powerful movements, fight injustice, and help those less fortunate.
On the other, social media continues to play an ever-increasing role in our daily lives – even reaching the workplace – to the point where it could be detrimental to how individuals and society, as a whole, live.
For this article, we’ll focus on the latter aspect of social media usage – and how to “avoid” misusing Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other media platforms.
Here are five hidden dangers of social media:
Many of us are guilty of using our smartphones and tablets to wind down before bedtime. Psychologists and other experts reveal that this overuse of technology is affecting how well we sleep.
“Being potentially addicted or using these devices too much will make us stay up late as well and stop you from getting quality sleep,” says Stephanie Lau, developmental psychologist based in the United Kingdom.
“The main problem that occurs with taking your electronics to bed is the blue light they emit,” adds Jamie Bloch, a clinical psychologist and founder of MindMovers Psychology in the U.K., “The blue lights of electronics send signals to our brain telling us it is daytime.” This releases stress hormones, which keep us in an alert, wakeful state.
Fix: Stop using electronics at least an hour before bedtime; use a blue light filter if tech use cannot be avoided.
2. Social Interaction
The accelerating pace in which people are using social media is fundamentally impacting human interaction. When we’re always staring at a screen, we’re less mindful of the people whom we are with.
Daniel Goleman, an author of several books on the subject of emotional intelligence (EI), says that the expanding hours spent with gadgets and digital devices effectively lowers social intelligence.
Merely having a phone in arm’s reach is enough for some to divert their attention from the person they’re speaking with. “We’re always on standby for the next notification and alert – and this takes time away from the people who are with us,” adds Ms. Lau.
Fix: Power off the phone and stash it in your pocket or purse; educate yourself on the damaging effects of excessive social media use.
Technology-induced distractions are also a common complaint among both parents and teachers. Teachers and college professors – already contending with the limited attention span of most kids – must now work extra hard to keep smartphones from taking over the classroom.
James M. Lang, a college professor of British Literature, writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
“Like every faculty member these days — and like most high-school and even middle-school teachers — I am in a constant battle with cellphones and laptops for the attention of my students in the classroom.”
But college professors aren’t the only ones who must contend with gadget-induced attention deficit. Technology distractions cost workplaces billions of dollars in lost productivity every year.
Fix: If you have kids, monitor the content they’re accessing and when. At work, put your phone in your desk drawer, or leave it in your vehicle.
4. Body Image
“Being bombarded with images of perfection: perfect bodies, perfect makeup, perfect faces … (leaves) people feeling quite down about themselves,” Lau explains, “You’re misled to believe that this is reality.”
Of course, those who produce social media content spend hours touching up blemishes and imperfections. While adults innately understand that what they see on social media isn’t reality, these images can still have a subtle – yet still adverse – psychological effect.
Perhaps no demographic is more vulnerable to the false stereotyping of social media than adolescents – especially teenage girls. “With age comes perspective and wisdom,” says Lau, “(But) young people … need guidance from adults and for them to monitor their use of technology.
Fix: Monitor the content that your child is accessing. Educate them on the false nature of what they see.
5. Feelings of Overwhelm
Human beings want and need to connect with other people. Social media, despite all its potential shortcomings – helps many of us keep in touch with the people we love – especially from afar.
However, the pressure of always having to be available or responsive – which we’re seeing now in the workplace – produces the harmful effects of anxiety and overwhelm. Some workplaces force their employees to bring their devices home with them; further enhancing an already-stressful situation.
“We are constantly walking the tightrope to deliver content, respond to others, be responded to, (and) to monitor and manage what we’re sharing,” adds Bloch.
This constant balancing act of checking and thumbing out messages, replying to emails, answering calls; in short, the always-present nature of technology in our personal and professional lives, is capable of creating intense anxiety, depression, and stress.
Fix: Limit your work and social media usage whenever possible. Follow only individuals and groups that you must to get work done, and don’t feel obligated to follow anyone you don’t know well.