The number of social media users has grown enormously in recent years, all thanks to the easy availability of the internet in developing countries. All of us remain glued to our screens as life slips out of our hands. It is affecting us adversely. We know how social media can be manipulative and stir mental health issues, but how does it affect our physical health?
Social Media and Social Distancing
The core aim of all social media platforms was the promise of connection. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. were created to keep us feel connected to our friends, family, receive frequent updates from people in our lives, and build a sense of community within us. These days one can have hundreds of friends or followers on Facebook and Instagram. However, in reality, not even a single person he can rely upon during a challenging situation.
Addiction irrespective of age
We can see even elders spending hours and hours on their phones. More than half of teens (54%) say they spend too much time on their cellphones, and 41% say “they overdo it on social media”. Everyone seems addicted to this drug, irrespective of their age.
“We have to get off the phone and knock on doors and talk to each other face-to-face…We can’t rely on the internet to tell us about the world.”Michelle Obama in an interview
Replacement of conventional sources
Social media has replaced many conventional sources of entertainment too. People can reach every source for anything just by a single tap.
Nowadays most of the people prefer consuming news on social media sites like Twitter rather than reading newspapers or watching TV news. For watching movies and videos, platforms like Instagram and Youtube are being preferred.
Teenagers prefer to chat on Facebook than meeting someone physically. We feel the need to be in isolation with our phone.
Now, we need to ask ourselves if social media is really keeping us connected, or we’re just cutting ties with the real world for a virtual one. This does not only means that our mental health is being compromised but also our physical health, that is being severely affected.
Impact of Social Media on Our Physical Health
In our effort to remain connected with this world, we are spending so much time on these social media platforms, that we are actually distancing ourselves from peace and our physical well being. Many scientific studies show that social media is damaging our physical health in different ways:-
1. Disrupted sleep schedule
Sleep is one of the most crucial factors that contribute to our good physical health. When we spent the night staring and scrolling through social media at the cost of our sleep, our brain functioning slows down. For an average human being to function properly, we need at least 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Any lesser than that will lead to feeling exhausted throughout our day.
So that’s why it is important to set a fixed cut-off time for ourselves. We should avoid the use of social media and even smartphones while we go to our bed or after a fixed time.
2. Degraded eyesight
Smartphones emit blue light, promoting the growth of “poisonous molecules” in our eyes, leading to macular degeneration (i.e., worsening eyesight).
Ajit Karunarathne, professor, University of Toledo.
Ophthalmologists suspect a link between smartphone usage and cataracts due to the increase in younger patients experiencing cataract instead of the usual 75 and older crowd.
It is also advisable to use desktop and pc for using social media instead of smartphones. Also, the brightness of our computers and smartphones should be balanced i.e. neither too low nor too high.
3. Body Posture
After testing and surveying several people, studies have concluded that spending hours swiping through social media can badly affect our posture.
People with high smartphone usage and bad sitting posture are found to suffer from vertebrae disorders, round shoulders, spinal curvatures, associated neck pain, and even migraines. These structural problems caused by faulty posture can further lead to respiratory dysfunction.
Childhood obesity is often associated with sleep deprivation. For instance, we can associate shorter sleep time in children with a 20% increase in obesity risk. The physical activity being displaced by extended screen time is harmful to the physical health and also cognitive development.
Also, the lack of physical activity due to the high social media usage can lead to problem like diabetes, which is nowadays becoming common in teenagers.
Extended screen time and being burdened by the presence of unrealistic body ideals can reduce self-esteem and increase stress levels. Both which are said to be the root causes of obesity and can severely affect our physical health.
5. Carpal Tunnel syndrome
People who spend a lot of time scrolling and swiping may carve their way towards carpal tunnel syndrome. It is a painful hand and wrist disorder.
“Caution may be warranted when using hand-held electronic devices, in order to minimize the chance of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.”Peter White, Department of Health, Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Prioritizing Physical Health
Since there is also a positive side to social media, and it will be difficult for us to boycott its use completely. So, we must use it in a balanced and controlled way. We should ensure that our health is not compromised and this can be done if we follow some basic measures:-
- Sleeping on time- Try not to take your phone to bed. Instead, read your favourite book. It will help you fall asleep easily.
- Ensure proper posture- While sitting or standing always keep your back straight and distribute your weight equally on both legs. Never hunch your shoulders or drop your neck too much while on the phone.
- Using social media on the desktop instead of phones will not strain your eyes as much. However, always remember to take a break.
- The best way to keep your body healthy is indulging in Yoga or any physical exercise. It can be running, gym, skipping or even dancing. Whatever you like!
- Limit your social media usage to a fixed number of hours a day. Do not let it interfere with your work, study, friendships or other offline relationships.