Social Media

Can Social Media Use Adversely Impact Our Physical Health?

In many people, the mere thought of having no access to social media will induce goose bumps. Social media is integrated into our daily lives such that the “fear of missing out” on social media information may have caused us to be hyper-connected. The constant need of staying connected to peers, media content, and online services may have detrimental health consequences. There may be multiple potential pathways to diseases through social media use. For example, the constant social media connectivity could lead to communication overload, which could result in high stress levels. Increased stress, in and of itself, could undermine health by increasing the probability of infection, exacerbating the severity of somatic symptoms as well as symptoms following an exposure to a common cold and systemic inflammation. Another possibility is that social media use can adversely affect our physical health by reducing the quantity and quality of our sleep. Lower sleep quantity and quality is linked with poor physical health (e.g., cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and early mortality).

In a recent study, Lee and colleagues examined 251 undergraduate students (123 females) to investigate if the amount of social media use is related to various indices of physical health. In this study, researchers analyzed the participants’ blood samples for C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a marker of chronic inflammation and is also associated with chronic illnesses (e.g., cardiovascular diseases, cancers, depression). Additionally, participants completed self-report measures of social media use, somatic symptoms, general illness-related doctor’s visits, and the number of time participants sought medical care in the past three months for an infection-related illnesses. Results indicated that social media use was positively linked with higher levels of CRP, frequent somatic symptoms (headaches, chest/back pain) experienced in the past month as well as more visits to the doctor’s office for a general illness. In the sample, the likelihood of seeking medical care for an infection-related illness was nonsignificant. All these findings held even after controlling for factors such as sociodemographic information, gender, and depressive symptoms.

In essence, social media is negatively impacting our physical, psychological, and mental health. Researchers argue that the beneficial daily activities are displaced by social media use. Therefore, the daily regimen should include healthy activities (e.g., exercise, time with family, mindfulness) to bolster our physical health and reduce stress levels.

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Dr. Abbasi founded mindfulrelation.com as a ‘go-to-website’ where couples can learn ways to avoid harmful online behaviors and improve the quality of their relationship. In her research, Dr. Abbasi examined how social media use is linked with romantic relationship problems, mental health, personality, and mood.
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