The world is slowly waking up to the downsides of social media. On May 23, US surgeon general Dr Vivek Murthy raised concerns over social media exposure especially among teenagers. Issuing an advisory, he said, social media use among young people is nearly universal, with up to 95% of teenagers and even 40% of children aged 8-12 being on social media.
“Despite this widespread use among children and adolescents, we do not yet have enough evidence to determine if social media use is sufficiently safe for them — especially during adolescence, a particularly vulnerable period of brain development,” he said.
The US top health official said that one-third or more of girls aged 11-15 say they feel “addicted” to certain social media platforms and over half of teenagers report that it would be hard to give up social media.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family of South Korea in the month of April 2023 announced that they will be providing up to $500 per month to socially isolated individuals, in a bid to support their “psychological and emotional stability and healthy growth.” Many people across the world are isolating themselves due to the over usage of social media platforms. Individuals are satisfied with virtual interactions instead of actually interacting offline with friends and family.
Experts say that overuse of social media platforms has ill-effects on their health and wellbeing which many are unaware of. Excessive usage often leads to social media addiction, say experts.
Many studies published in the last ten years have found a connection between excessive usage of social media and mental illness. A review article published in International Journal of Indian Psychology finds that the use of social media is higher in the younger generation, and they are more prone to mental health issues.
Here are seven ways excessive use of social media can affect us:
1. Excessive screen time leads to sleep deprivation
People often browse through social media at bedtime. This leads to reduction in the number of hours spent sleeping leading to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation has several effects on health like causing daytime drowsiness, reduced productivity, lack of attention, gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) etc. Prolonged sleep deprivation also increases the chances for clinical depression.
2. Eating disorders in youngsters
Mina Dilip, child psychotherapist based in Chennai says serious clinical conditions like bulimia and anorexia are being induced by social media in the younger population. She says, “Kids and teens scroll through social media platforms every day and get influenced by models. This makes them follow irregular diets to lose weight, leading to eating disorders and their metabolism goes for a toss due to lack of nutrition.”
3. Sleep deprivation causing obesity
Obesity is more prevalent in children and teenagers who are sleep deprived due to social media usage. Staying up late at night can make us hungry, as the food consumed for dinner would be digested by midnight. This leads to overeating and hormonal imbalance which increases the risk for obesity.
4. Impact on self-esteem
Individuals using social media tend to be happy if their posts get more likes. But if it is lower than the previous time they posted, they tend to think that they are not good enough. “The younger generation rely heavily on the number of likes and comments they get on social media posts to feel worthy and good. They tend to base their self-worth on the other’s opinions and response to their posts,” says Dilip.
She says that the younger ones stay up late in the night thinking about why they are not getting likes or comments and keep checking the numbers often.
5. Reduced social interaction
Increased social media interactions leads to reduced physical social interactions. Individuals often tend to think that as they interact with people online there is no need to interact with people offline often.
6. Mental health issues
Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, professor of clinical psychology and head of SHUT (Service for Healthy Use of Technology) Clinic at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru said that negative comments, bullying, misinformation are highly prevalent on social media platforms. This can make individuals prone to social withdrawal, sadness, depression, anxiety and affect their day-to-day activities. “People who find it difficult to socialise depend on social media. It becomes their compensatory mechanism which is not healthy. It is replacing the concept of perceived support,” added Dr Sharma.
7. Lack of concentration leading to reduced productivity
Excessive usage of social media and sleep deprivation can affect your memory and ability to concentrate. It also impacts the decision-making abilities of a person and reduces their overall productivity.