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Social media can be an extremely valuable platform for a wide variety of uses, but it can also be very dangerous if used incorrectly. I know this first-hand as someone who’s been deeply involved in the social media industry for many years. Throughout the years, I’ve seen the negative impact social media can have on one’s mental well-being.
Social media can provide incredible opportunities, but it can be dangerous if abused. Here are five ways social media can be dangerous, and what can be done to avoid the potentially negative effects.
1. Real-life interaction is replaced if you allow it
Interaction on social media and the number of followers someone has cannot replace real-life human interaction, but users become so wrapped up in their lives on social media that they miss out on quality human interaction.
This is not healthy. You must spend time with family and friends — with your phone tucked away. Spending quality time with those close to you should be a priority. No amount of technology can replace the mental stimulation face-to-face discussions provide.
Rather than opening up your Instagram feed or Facebook, open your phone contacts and call or FaceTime a friend. Make plans to grab a coffee, go for a hike or anything else that the two of you enjoy doing. The little time you spend together will have a more meaningful and healthy impact than social media engagement.
Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing
2. Feelings of envy emerge based on fabricated lives
Social comparison isn’t anything new. People have been comparing themselves and their lives to those around them for a long time. Social media has just amplified this, as it’s right in the users’ faces when they open a social media app.
As soon as Instagram is opened, for example, there is an endless feed of what looks like the perfect life. From personal accomplishments, lavish vacations, expensive designer clothes and luxury cars — it can appear that everyone is living the perfect life.
A feeling of envy can result, but it’s important to understand that social media is a highlight reel. It’s not real-life. Nobody is going to post that they are having a bad day or take a selfie with no makeup on and post a picture with pimples.
Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Instead, focus on your own life and the good things you are experiencing. Be grateful for what you have and stay focused on your dreams and goals without outside distractions. Don’t let false narratives and fabricated social media lives lead you to stall or derail your own goals and progress.
3. Moments are missed and memorable experiences are diluted
When was the last time you were at a concert or sporting event? If you have attended a large event over the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that many people take pictures or videos nonstop. By doing this, they are missing out on the experience as it’s intended.
If you are at a concert and your entire focus is on getting the perfect shot or capturing the perfect video clip, you are going to miss out on so much. These missed memories fly right by you while your focus is buried in your phone.
If you have done this in the past — don’t worry we all have — ask yourself this: How many times did you go back and look at those pictures or video clips from the event? Probably not enough to justify missing out on the full experience.
Life around us moves quickly. Don’t let amazing memories that have the potential to last a lifetime fly right past you because your head is buried in your phone.
There is nothing wrong with documenting an event or experience on social media. In the beginning, take a few pictures. Post if you want. But then put your phone away and enjoy the moment — take in all of the memories through your own eyes.
This should come as no surprise to anyone, but social media can be highly addictive. Most people who spend too much time on social media will be the first ones to tell you that they do. So why don’t they reduce their time? Because it’s highly addictive.
Think about how many times you open up Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and Twitter. There are many reasons why social media is addictive, with one of them being the element of mystery. When you open up Instagram, what kind of content will you see? Instagram knows this — that’s why its feed isn’t in chronological order. The randomness enhances that mystery. This can result in the user falling down the social media rabbit hole, which can burn several hours of the day.
Limit your urge to check social media by disabling notifications. Also, put your social apps in one folder on the second page of your home screen. This will reduce to urge to check them when you open up your phone for other tasks.
5. It can ruin your sleep, impacting your physical health
A lot of the discussion around the negative impacts of social media focus on mental health, but it can harm your physical health as well. Many people allow social media to drastically reduce the quality of their sleep. Being glued to social media at night or while lying in bed can prevent you from falling asleep.
If you go to sleep with feelings of envy, jealously, sadness or depression it can also deeply impact your rest. It’s a good idea to unplug from social media a few hours before bed. Give your body and mind time to rest without the distractions of social media.
Try to replace social media with another activity before bed. Meditation, stretching, breathing exercises or even reading a book can help divert your attention from the urges of social media. Also, don’t sleep with your phone next to your bed. Having it within arm’s reach can be very tempting. Leave it in the other room, or somewhere that would require you to physically get out of bed to retrieve it.