According to expandedramblings.com, as of November 2014 1.35 billion people actively use Facebook, 284 million people use Twitter, and 313 million people use LinkedIn (the three social media services I subscribe to besides Pinterest, which boast 70 million users). The sight currently tracks 700 social sites on the Internet and adds more sites frequently. These statistics make a strong case, at least emotionally, for participation in social media, and I would argue that being disconnected from social media is difficult for most given the magnitude of people using it for basic modes of communication and getting things done. In addition, businesses who depend on consumer spending are likely very foolish if they ignore social media and opt out of the trend. They will likely be left behind by their competitors…case in point Blockbuster vs. Netflix.
Nevertheless, the use of social media comes with a price, and therefore should be used with caution. There are the obvious costs of posting the wrong personal information, which can result in embarrassment, the loss of a job, fines, imprisonment, identity theft, and other violent and non-violent crimes committed against you. For example, you are likely familiar with the ability to post/brag about your recent Amazon purchases on social media…”I just bought a 60 inch HD TV!” Imagine posting such a message on Facebook or twitter where ‘who knows who’ is watching, then follow it with a post, “going to visit family out of town for Christmas.” Boom, the social media stalker now knows you have a new HD TV and will be out of the house for a few days. Given the fact that you have turned your social media services on to post your location every time you submit a post, the thief is ready to go, and you no longer have a new HD TV, among some other things.
But, that isn’t really my biggest concern about social media. My biggest concern is related to the emotional and psychological impact it is having on unsuspecting users. There is very real and scientific evidence that social media is addictive and can lead to depression. First, every time you get a ping…a message on your social media platform. or every time you click a link to read another social media post your brain releases the chemical called dopamine. This chemical is the chemical that drives us to achieve results and finish tasks. But it can become an addiction.
The same chemical is released as we post and receive messages on social media. Every time our devices ping, buzz or otherwise notify us of new information coming in, we get a little hit of dopamine. The more hits we get the more hits we want until eventually we find ourselves checking our phones every 2 minutes to see if some new piece of information has come our way.
While creating an insatiable demand for dopamine hits we are also creating an increasingly stressful life for ourselves. As we seek to satisfy our cravings for information we create stress and send our bodies into fight or flight mode as if we were being threatened by an enemy. In this mode our bodies release cortisol which in a constant flow to our systems upsets our stomachs, puts our body into fight mode against sickness and ultimately leads to depressive anxiety. It is a vicious string of cause and effect that can be both physically and emotionally debilitating.
In addition to the fight or flight stress created by social media, the social stress of constantly comparing ourselves to the perceived and unreal images of others as portrayed on social media is a recipe for depression and other self-destructive behaviors. So, use social media with caution. Use it wisely. Don’t ever let it replace real human relationships, interactions and physical activities, which all combat stress and addiction.The more particular aspects concerning stress and depression are derived from: http://www.depressionanxietydiet.com/how-social-media-causes-depression-anxiety/ Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net