Why Social Networking Is Bad for Your Mental Health

In this post I will tell you about how social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., can negatively affect your health. I must say that personally I like social networking and I spend time on social media.

But I am sure that the excessive and uncontrolled devotion to social networking can do harm. That’s what I am going to tell you about.

Social networks are certainly a great chapter in the book of Internet. Social media facilitate your communication with friends, promote new acquaintances and facilitate the access to information scattered on the Internet by collecting it in one place.

Social networks are undeniably convenient and practical. Do I offer you to eliminate the use of social networks completely? No. I just want you to know about the possible consequences of uncontrolled devotion to social networks and know how to prevent these consequences.

What Harmful Consequences Are Caused by Social Networking?


There are a number of unpleasant effects associated with social networks, about which presence I would like to warn you.

Addiction

I think it is not a secret that social media pastime can cause severe addiction. Addiction arises because of the fact that the social media activity stimulates the pleasure centers in your brain, which are thus activated, for example, when people click the “Like” button on your profile, reply to your comments, or make comments on your photo.

We can say that any communication (not only the online one) affects these pleasure centers.

But the stimulation of dopamine production (this neurotransmitter is responsible for strong desires’ formation, including drug-related desires, such as the need to smoke a cigarette) goes to a completely different level, when you use social networks.

Many of us have hundreds or even thousands of friends, who regularly refresh their pages and can permanently interact with us: make comments, click the “Like” button and hold personal correspondence.

In real communication, we cannot hear compliments from hundreds of people concerning our new car. No one will constantly praise our musical taste, when we share information about the performer that we like.

In addition, the real communication takes much more time, than social networking, and cannot include so many participants.

Imagine that you have gathered two hundred friends in a café and each of them shouts over one another: “nice dress”, “yes-yes +1”,”I also agree”,” Like”, “Like!”

Someone at the end of the hall shouts: “By the way, about the picture that you showed me last week – it’s super. Now, have a look at mine, do you like it?”

In reality, this is hardly possible, but we daily face such communication on social networks.

Social networking is a quick and easy way of having fun. Because of the ease of social networks’ access, some strong addiction may occur.

Many people have constant access to social networks. The opportunity to “talk” with a few hundred people, to read their messages and to get acquainted with their opinions – requires you just a few clicks. You do not even have to get up from your seat!

Namely this accessibility makes the temptation of opening the browser and checking the updates on Facebook so attractive. And we want to return to it again and again.

Another important factor of the addiction emergence is that we have become accustomed to social networks as a way of pastime. Are you bored? You can visit Facebook! Do you have nothing to do? Why not check the messages on Twitter.

Many people get used to visit social networks as soon as they have a free moment. They do not think of what to do, because they immediately open the browser.

They take it as a cure for boredom, pastime means, a way that will help keep their hands busy or distract from problems.

This habit can turn into an addiction.

I need hardly explain you in detail how dangerous an addiction can be. It forms an uncontrollable desire, which will prevent you from working, studying, taking care of your health, finding time for your family and your own development. Addicted people experience discomfort, if they can not satisfy their need. It can happen to you, once you lose your access to the Internet.

The addiction to social networks entails the following problems as well.

Lack of Attention Span

Prolonged social network activity can cause deterioration of attention concentration and other symptoms of ADHD.

While communicating using social networks, people constantly switch from one task to another: read the comments, check the updates, turn on some video, while replying to a message, and write a short comment.

During such activity, people’s attention dwells on one thing not very long and constantly switches to another one.

It also forms a certain habit of learning information. You get used to receive information in small portions, constantly switching from one type of information to another, for example, from replying to a comment to some video viewing.

This habit creates difficulties in attention concentration. It is more difficult to hold your attention on one thing for long. For example, a person, who is used to communicate using social networks, will experience some discomfort while reading a book. Because there will be no constant pop out on the right of the book page telling that “you have received a new message” or “someone has clicked the “Like” button on your photo/comment.”

If you suffer from attention deficit disorder, then the constant communication using social networks will be of no use to you. In case you have no symptoms of this syndrome, then you risk getting them, if you know no measure in using social networks.

The symptoms of the attention deficit disorder are: people find it difficult to maintain their attention concentration, they always want to get away from work or study and visit the social networks, they find it difficult to read long texts, they quickly become bored, they experience discomfort when they sit still and do nothing.

This happens because of social networking as well.

Decline in Intellectual Abilities

Viewing photos, comments, short status messages…

Such activity cannot be called intellectual. For many people, social media becomes a kind of “chewing gum for the brain”, i.e. such an activity does not allow them get smart, but constantly occupies their mind and attention doing some work.

It is easy to get used to it, because such an activity does not require special intellectual expenses. Pursuant to this habit, people can ignore useful and developmental activities such as reading books, studying some informational articles on the Internet, or learning.

The social media pastime does not provide the brain with enough food for development. All this, coupled with a decrease in the ability to concentrate your attention, can produce the decline in intellectual abilities.

Stress, Fatigue

Constant switching from one task to another, which can occur during the work with social media, strongly tires your brain. The brain gets tired of the information abundance, especially if this information is received chaotically, in small portions, but rather quickly.

The brain takes time and quiet to “digest” the received data and to process the information. But instead of this, many people continue to stuff it with new information from social networks or Internet, keeping away from some rest.

It is likely that if you are constantly distracted by social networking communication during the day, then toward the evenings your brain gets tired. Try closing your eyes after a long social media “marathon”. You will hear a lot of thoughts that will quickly replace each other and will hinder you from relaxing.

You will want to be on your feet and engage your mind in something again, instead of allowing it to rest. This is the way the information, which your brain does not have time to process, is released from the depths of your psyche.

This is the way the stress caused by the lack of rest and concentration occurs.

Emotion Suppression

I have noticed such a feature about myself. Sometimes, when something suddenly upsets me, for example, some bad news, I immediately visit vk.com (Russian social network. It was made as Facebook clone for Russians, but, ironically it became much better: better interface, a lot of functions, FB doesn’t know!) in order to see the friends’ updates or read the status messages.

But recently I began to ask myself: Why am I doing this? I realized that I do it unconsciously in order to get away from unpleasant emotions and to get distracted from them. Reading of the updates takes all my attention and, thus, I forget about the bad things for a while.

You might ask: Isn’t it good? After all, instead of thinking about the bad things, I visit social networks.

No, it’s not good.

In the previous paragraph I wrote that your brain needs time to process the impressions received. But if you simply get distracted from unpleasant emotions without giving the brain the opportunity to solve the problem associated with these emotions or without thinking about an unpleasant situation, then you get away from these emotions and suppress them.

In this case, they go nowhere, because you just drive them deep into your psyche, where they remain together with all other psychological ‘garbage’, namely information and experiences that the brain has not managed to “adopt”. Suppression of emotions leads to stress and internal problems.

It can generate emotional alienation as well. Your emotions need some time for development. But if you spend this time on social networks, instead of devoting it to the analysis of your feelings, then many of your emotions such as empathy, compassion and love have no time to develop…

Now, when I want to visit Facebook or Vk.com, instead of thinking about a problem or experiencing some emotion, I say to myself: “Stop! No need to pollute your mind with “undigested” experiences! Sit quietly and let my brain to “digest” all these emotions. Only then, you can visit the social media and see what your friend has written to you.

Tips on How to Prevent Harm

As I said at the beginning, social networking is not only evil. It is also very convenient: it helps you communicate, share information, find old friends, keep abreast of the events.

You should bind the sack before it be full. The same can be applied to the social media pastime. I’ll explain how to minimize the social media harm in the following tips.

Limit Your Time on Social Networks

The most obvious solution is to reduce the amount of time you spend on Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can set yourself a rule, for example, not to visit any social network more than three times a day. For this purpose, choose the time when you can check whether someone has written to you on Facebook.

For example, you check it at 9:00 in the morning, then at 15:00 and at 18:00, and do not go there anymore.
The work on this website is closely associated with social networks. I periodically visit these websites in order to reply to readers’ messages, to publish my new articles, etc. Therefore, I am highly tempted to “hang” there for a long time, to the detriment of my work. Therefore, I set myself some time limits, about which I wrote above.

You can set yourself the same limits. Or promise yourself not to visit Twitter, until you finish the work. Or come up with the most suitable way of Internet hygiene for you.

Subscribe to Useful Communities

The tip above was applied to the amount of time you spend on the Internet websites. This one will refer to the quality of social media activity.

Instead of viewing silly pictures, subscribe to any interesting communities on Facebook, where links to useful articles and researches are published. This groups may be related to science, literature, art or self-development.

Social networks aggregate the information from the whole Internet. This is related not only to news about celebrities, but also to useful and educational information. This is a very good opportunity, use it. Use social media for your own benefit, not for your own damage!

Pay more attention to reading of informative materials, to viewing of interesting links, to participation in discussions, instead of clicking the “Like” button and constant updating of news feeds.

Give Your Brain the Opportunity to Relax

If you are tired from work – have a rest for a while. Go outside and breathe. Let the accumulated information be “digested”.

It is better than visiting social networks as soon as you finished your work, thus filling your attention with new information. Have a rest and try to relax. You will be less tired this way.

Remember That the Internet Is Not Limited to Social Networks Only!

Recently, in my country and around the world, people talk about the possibility of controlling the Internet by some government organizations. In my opinion, the Internet control should not be carried out by means of prohibiting the access to many websites (as it is done in China, for example).

I think that more “democratic” means of control would be the attraction of users to large and multifunctional Internet platforms for the purpose of limiting the users’ activity on networks to the activity on these platforms only.

Such multifunctional and integrated platforms already exist – they are social networks. Many people do not go beyond the social networking and seldom visit other websites, because social media provides a rich set of functions that seek to satisfy the most different needs of the users.

It is much easier to control the information on one major website (or more), than to monitor a set of separate domains. Especially since the user deanonymization occurs on social networks: people post their photos and names. You can track the activity of each user and associate him/her with a specific person.

I do not want to say that social networks are created specifically for some total control. These websites do give a lot of opportunities and facilities. That is the reason why they are so popular, but not because some kind of conspiracy can be behind all this.

I just want to influence somehow the trend, which implies the fact that social networks began to replace the Internet entirely. And only in this regard, I remembered the problem of control of virtual media.

I believe that, despite the fact that the social networks have very rich opportunities, they cannot pretend to be the whole Internet. The possibility of obtaining information from social networks is severely limited by the format of providing this information: a few texts, a lot of pictures.

Internet is a great technological achievement. You can study, learn new things and obtain valuable information without leaving your workplace. Social networks provide only a small, “cut-down” part of all these opportunities.

Therefore, do not limit your Internet work to social networks only. Visit other useful websites, for example, Wikipedia. There are a lot of interesting things on the Internet, besides the short status messages and news about celebrities …

Social Networks I Like and I Dislike

This article describes the rules of Internet hygiene, which will be useful in your work with social networks.

I like social networking. I simply try to stick to these rules, in order not to be distracted from work, not to waste my time on pointless, mind-numbing activity, not to lose my attention concentration…

Here, I tell you about the social networks, which I am using myself, and what benefits you can get from them. I will formulate the work rules with regard to some of them.

Facebook.com

It is a “classical” social network and can cause severe addiction. All the most dangerous components of social networks are present here: constantly updated daily friend tape, clicks of the “Like” buttons, status messages, information abundance with a lot of pictures, “virtual narcissism” (this is when someone writes much about him/herself and waits for the compliments from people around), etc.

In order to avoid becoming addicted, you should carefully maintain the information hygiene while working with Facebook. If you follow all the rules and do not spend the whole day on Facebook, then nothing bad will happen to you. It is very convenient to communicate and find old friends using Facebook. You can learn about new events and organize offline amicable meetings. There are lots of interesting communities. Facebook is not an absolute evil.

Twitter.com

In my opinion, this website is much closer to the “Dr. Evil” of the social networks, than Facebook. I rate its danger degree to the person’s psyche as high one. The possibility of becoming addicted is also high. But the benefits are quite small.

Short status messages (there are good statements, but the majority of them are nonsense, news of someone’s private life). There is no other information except for posts of 140 characters long! All these are constantly updated. Small pieces of information during a short time! A continuous stream of messages. You could not imagine more fertile ground for the emergence of attention deficit disorder!

I cannot say that I like Twitter. However, sometimes I write there and read other people’s messages. Instead of reading the status messages about how your friend overslept and was late for work, read interesting messages of wise people. For example, follow Dalai-Lama (yes, you can find him on Twitter as well).

Last.fm

I like listening to all kinds of music very much. This website helps me find the perfect music to match my taste and to read other people’s opinions on new music albums.

The website automatically collects the information about what you listen to on your home computer or on iPod. The listening statistics is shown on your page. On the basis of this statistics, the website recommends you the performers you might like. You can find people who share your musical taste and share opinions with them.

The website also lets me know what musicians, among those I like, will perform in my city. The system will notify me in due time, if, for example, my favorite “Boards of Canada” will come to Moscow and will give a concert there.

It is a very convenient social network, if you use it for its purpose. But, like any social network, last.fm can be addictive, if you do not adhere to the rules outlined above. The search of music is good. But the chaotic switching from page to page for a long time and viewing the updates every half an hour are bad.

Imdb.com

You cannot call this website as a full-fledged social networking, because it is simply an organized database of movies. However, I will provide it here as well.

Imdb.com is a great website that allows searching movies for every taste. I really like the “people who liked this also liked…” function and search for movies by rating. Thanks to imdb.com I’ve watched a lot of great movies, which, if it were not this website, I would never find them out.

Stumbleupon.com

It is a good project allowing finding a content on the Internet, according to your interests. Just as last.fm recommends you musicians, Stumbleupon recommends you whole websites. (If you are interested in astronomy and have noted that in your interest list, then the website will offer you pages on this subject).

The pages themselves are ranked within the system by rating. That is, the more users voted for the website page as favorite, the more likely is that the website will recommend you namely that page.

The platform is directed as outwardly to study the Internet, which is beyond the expanse of the platform.

Judging by my own observations, its main disadvantage is the information abundance that contains “little text and a lot of pictures,” because most people vote namely for the websites of this format.

On the other hand, I use this website when I do not want to read anything, but I want to relax. I choose “Animals” in the interest list, thereby telling the system that I want to see only websites that contain information about animals.

While viewing animal photos from around the world, I relax (I can also view some beautiful travel photos or anything else). Of course, I do not intend visiting this website all the time and spend all my time by viewing pictures.

Reddit.com

I like Reddit! You can find a lot of interesting information there. The website emphasis lies, in my opinion, on forums’ communication and on publication of some interesting links corresponding to the topic of Subreddit communities within the website, such as “Meditation”, “Vegetarianism” or “Personal Development”.

The communication, at least, in those small communities that I attended, is held at a high level of culture and competence. The overall level of communication is the highest level I’ve seen on social networks. If you have a question on a particular subject, then the people, who are involved in subreddit that corresponds to the topic, will be happy to answer your questions and provide their own recommendations.

Reddit, in my opinion, is almost a full replacement for many forums. Instead of logging on a set of forums, ask your questions here in a variety of subreddits and receive timely answers.

Conclusion

You could make sure that I am a social network user myself, though I warn about their harm. Social websites help me find music and movies, receive answers to my questions, relax and have a rest.

Social networking can bring both benefit and harm. In this article I have explained how you can minimize the damage and get only the benefit.

I must say that these virtual “hygiene” rules are applied not only to social networks, but also to many aspects of working with computer: games, working on the Internet, or working with the e-mail. Social networks are not the only possible evil that you may encounter, when sitting at the computer. Enough is as good as a feast.

24 Comments

  • Great article! With a lot t of useful information. I like the fact that the author states the pros and cons of social media because social media is definitely among the best thingss that have been introduced on the internet and bring communication to a whole new level. Even though they are really good, they also have cons which many people are not aware of and should put into consideration.

  • I found this artice refreshing, Its nice to know people like yourself actually exist, thanks for the educational and thought provoking article.

  • If a person drinks a drop of poison a day it may not kill them right away but over time. Just get off of social networking. If people really want to talk with you they would pick up the phone and call you.

  • I can across this article while doing a different kind of search online related to the addiction of social media and the cons it might have on one’s brain. Its a really good article and think social media addiction is a real problem. More and more people are spending a lot of their valuable time online reading pointless dribble, non of which registers in the mind or can be used in real conversation with people. The other half of the information is marketing enticing us to consume.

    Seriously, how long can you go trying to keep up with all the information on social media apps: Twitter, FB, vine, snapchat, tumblr, whatsapp. It becomes mind numbing after a while!

    Thanks for the great article! Bravo.

  • Can I know who wrote this, I would like to use this as a resource for a school project and do not have a name to give credit.

  • I’m using this from my research paper, I need to know who wrote this and when they wrote it. It would help a lot.

  • Thank you, Nikolay! I have been interviewing people who avoid social media and people who advocate for it to try and find out if it’s healthy or unhealthy. Your article gives so much perspective! Definitely gonna print it out and re-read from time to time.

  • Yes i am out of the hip generation of this SM push, at 46 years old, and glad to be. Most think its the only way to communicate, but i can assure you it is very simple, it is an Advertising Ploy!!!!! 30 years ago if you wanted to purchase AD space in any medium, the purchaser would do as much research to get a fast ROI. The tracking of the results was a guess in most cases at best, you only had sales revenue of products or services promoted to see if it worked. SM promises advertisers the promise of getting the perfect message in front of the perfect audience, at the perfect time, to drive sales. The spin on this SOLD by FB and Twitter is that the product will get sold more then casting a wider net, and you will only pay for results, but as one who buys Ads for small companies, i can tell you its not true! This is the biggest Shell Game ever pushed on Business, and the sellers of the services are smarter than the customers buying ads for business owners who are clueless until they finally take a closer look at the numbers and pull out. But FB sales team is like the Yellow Page sales reps in the 70s. They just move to the next vendor and work the pitch to get a contract.

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  • Very informative article. I did not know that social media stimulates the brain, I think that is why in the past I wanted to check my Facebook account first before emails, and before set forth tasks.
    Facebook is entertainment, and this is one of the main reason why people gravitate towards it.

    Human beings are naturally social animals, and no one likes isolation or seclusion from the world. We need to interact and feel that we are not just taking up space. There are many pros to social media, but there are some negatives as well. As you mention, that we do not find time to read books, or spend time with our loved ones.

    The biggest theme that has resonated from your article for me is that social media declines intellectual ability. Many people fall victim to traps of being instigators or putting their unwanted comments on a particular subject. Never having the time find the treasures hidden in books!

    Social media is supposed to enlighten us, but I think people, in general, do not like to exercise their brain. They find that social media is salvation–a break from the world. Which in not case. We are immersed in individual problems and other tragedies around the globe.

    Here is three-minute read how my butt got bigger using Facebook.

    http://www.gymhub.com/my-butt-got-bigger-using-fat-facebook/

  • I disagree with some parts of this. Like attention span, I like to draw and I can draw for several hours without stopping and same for reading even though I use social networking. Also, I’m a straight A+ student and possibly one of the smartest people in my grade level and I know some things that are higher than my current grade (not to brag or anything). I don’t go on social media when I feel down or get bad news, I think about it for like an hour and mope around the house. So I don’t know if I’m the only one not experiencing these “symptoms” but that’s about it.

  • Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your blog?
    My blog site is in the exact same area of interest as yours
    and my visitors would certainly benefit from some of the information you provide here.
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  • This is really long…

    Just kidding I read all of it, I enjoy reading even though I do have ADHD

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