My friend Claire wants to quit social media. She has tried her best and wants to make better use of her time. She spends an average of 4 hours per day scrolling through Facebook posts, bad offers, and other so-called important updates on Instagram and Twitter. Claire feels that she could have utilized the same time on productive activities-updating her skills and knowledge, upscaling her career, networking, and spending quality time with family and friends.

“It’s such an addiction that sometimes I feel my life depends on social media. The harder I try to quit it, the more I feel like scrolling and clicking as if my life depends on it. It’s worse than smoking, I am officially a social media addict” she declares.

Well, most of us can relate to Claire, and as clich├ęd as it may sound, social media addiction has become a big issue for millennials. The social media platforms are buzzing with so much content that sometimes it becomes overwhelming, to put it mildly.

Let us look at the most unavoidable effects of excessive social media exposure on our health:

  1. Decreased activity level: 

 It is a no-brainer that decreased activity negatively impacts our digestion. Our corporate lifestyle leaves very little time for an activity. To top it, social media usage further adds to our sitting hours. Such a lifestyle becomes a breeding ground for many lifestyle-related diseases like thyroid, high blood pressure, heart issues, to name a few.

2. Fewer meaningful relationships: 

As far as interaction on chats and comments are concerned; there is no way one can understand the tone, facial expressions, and body language, so there are higher chances of misinterpretation in communication. Thus, social media platforms are distancing us from the real world. Creating a sense of isolation, thus negatively impacting our mental health.

3. Validation seeking behaviour:  

 Millennials post on social media and get post likes, and comments. You will post on social media and feel happy as long as this cycle of likes continues. This cycle goes on until one fine day, you realize your post has not generated many likes. It makes you restless, and you go back to your post time and again, hoping to find more likes. Such an obsession for seeking validation can have a long-term impact on your self-esteem and self-worth, and can eventually lead to depression and anxiety-the most common mental health issues.

4. Lack of quality sleep: 

Continuous usage of social media, especially just before sleeping can lead to cognitive and emotional arousals, suppressing the secretion of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep and wake cycle, and preparing our bodies for sleep. Besides the tendency to scroll through social media at night naturally reduces our sleeping hours and quality of sleep.

5. Low self-esteem:

More often than not, people tend to project the positive aspects of themselves- bodies, skin, relationships, careers. They never show their negative side or the bad phases they go through in life. So ultimately, what we see on social media is only partially true, and based on that, we form the judgment that people in our circles are experiencing fulfillment in every aspect of their lives. Our tendency to do upward social comparison makes us trapped in a feeling of inadequacy.

6. Fear of missing out:

The presence of innumerable groups, updates by people in our circle, and other informative news, makes social media the one-stop destination for all sorts of information. Continuous engagement in social media groups makes one so used to it, that one develops Fear of missing out (FOMO), which can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety.

7. A platform for self-expression:

Social media groups give people a chance to connect with like-minded people. This is particularly in the case of people falling into sexual minorities or having different ideologies from others. This is indeed helpful as it gives people a platform to express their authentic selves without any fear of judgment. Thus it keeps them in a healthy state of mind and helps avoid any sense of isolation.

8. Increased awareness on mental health issues:

Social media has helped raise awareness of mental health-related issues and normalize psychological disorders in mainstream society. People have started recognizing the importance of mental health, and coming out in support of one another to deal with it. There are many platforms available to share one’s issues and seek genuine support, without fear of stigma.

While clearly, there are more possible harmful effects than positive of social media usage if not managed well, so here are some tips that can keep you sane:

  • Mindfulness:

Be mindful of your usage of social media, and the feelings its usage is generating in you. Engaging in continuous comparisons with others based on their reel life is not a good thing for your well-being.

  • Being selective:

With the overwhelming presence of a variety of people with varied motives, you need to be selective of who you are associating with. If association with certain colleagues, friends, relatives, or strangers is turning out to be toxic in any way, it’s best to refrain from connecting with them.

  • Avoiding usage before bedtime:

It’s best to avoid screen exposure 30 minutes before bedtime to ensure good quality sleep. If that is the only time you have, it’s wiser to stick to low-engagement content like pictures, instead of discussions on complex topics.

  • Self-monitoring:

Social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook help you set a time limit for usage, which is a very good way to minimize usage and ensure higher productivity.

Social media is a boon as well as a bane, and one should try to strike a balance in its usage, just like other aspects of their lives.