420 million people and counting…
That’s roughly just about 6% of the 7 billion human beings inhabiting the planet. This 6% of the entire global population is currently suffering from a terrible affliction.
This extremely viral disease is causing people to develop neural abnormalities (negative changes in the brain’s structure), shorter attention span, and the resulting attention-deficit syndrome. It is also bringing changes at the neurochemical levels, increasing their risk of anxiety, depression, and suicidal patterns.
It is also causing unhealthy weight gain in many. This unhealthy weight gain can lead to increased incidence of diabetes. People currently victimized by this disease complain of severe migraine-like headaches, poor vision, and chronic back pain.
It has also infused sleep disorders amongst a major proportion victimized by this condition. Studies indicate that this disorder might be causing more number of deaths.
So what is this mysterious disease? Which disease has such bizarre and scary outcomes? It’s not the Ebola or the Zika virus. It is the IAD or Internet Addiction Disorder (also called Problematic Internet Use).
How can a simple platform connecting billions of people together be as hazardous as this?
Read more to find out how the Internet, especially the Social Media is rendering drastic and negative repercussions on our mental and physical health.
Social Media and Isolation: A modern-day paradox
Who wouldn’t want to be in continuous touch with family, friends, old friends from school, and bleak acquaintances?
Well, studies say that if you are “wired-in” for more than 2 hours every day at different social media platforms, there are high chances that you are, paradoxically, more prone to feeling lonely.
Social isolation is defined as the near-complete lack of contact of an individual with the rest of the society and/or the community he/she is living in.
This type of isolation which stems from being too involved in different social media platforms is akin to having no communication with the outside world and a complete avoidance of human contacts.
Moreover, social isolation, just like its prime instigator, social media, is a growing global epidemic.
How is that even possible?
- The most significant way social isolation affects us is that makes you more anxious and depressed. Not in a generic sense, but in the medically diagnosed sense.
- The scientific community has proven that socially isolated people are more prone to cardiovascular diseases, due to the strong presence of stress hormones.
- This, in turn, makes you more susceptible to diseases and infections due to a weakened immune system. Such individuals, in general, have higher levels of inflammation in their bodies.
- Not to metion, children, who experience social isolation, grow up to be unhealthy, weak, and disease-prone adults. In fact, isolation can be as deadly as obesity or tobacco-consumption, researchers contend.
- Moreover, socially isolated adults tend to show a faster cognitive decline, which ultimately results is dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and even Parkinson’s.
This is how increased involvement in social media platforms begins to hamper your overall health.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Social Media and the classic case of addiction
Remember the experiment where caged lab rats preferred sugar- water over cocaine?
(Yes, a whopping 94% of these caged rodents became addicted to taking sips of sugary-water instead of cocaine).
But sugar-addiction was so last decade. The virtual world of social media has seized the mental well-being of our generation.
And if you find it extremely hard to resist checking up on how well your tweet is performing, you are not alone. The entire concept of social media is built on the idea of making it irresistible and tempting, just like cocaine or cigarette.
The primary factor triggering a lack of self-control over social media is FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
How does FOMO affect our mental well-being?
Let’s find out…
- Visiting social media websites is more addictive than drinking or smoking.
- Since people are addicted to tweeting every single thought that crosses their mind or Instagramming every morsel of food they consume, social media has become the prime leisure activity of this day.
- This is making them lose out on two very important activities critical to human sustenance, sleeping and physical exercises.
- Scientists have found that, just like illicit drugs or any other addiction, social media targets our brain’s “reward center”.
- This turns normal human beings into compulsive and intense users of social media. The dopamine spikes observed following an increased number of likes on social media is something our brain biologically craves.
- In addition to this, gaining social approval of peers over FB or Twitter has also shown to effect oxytocin levels in our brain. We release this hormone (very aptly called the “cuddle hormone”) when we feel warm and loved.
- Scientists have observed this hormone peaking by 13% in people getting positive responses or “likes” on social media. Do you know what else could cause such a huge spike? Marrying your loved one.
Have you already checked your phone 32 times today?
Well, you might think, ok I am not one of “those” who tend to be isolated or cut-out from the rest of the world.
Or even someone who is actually “addicted” to FB or Twitter.
It’s highly likely that you are still not that badly influenced by your peers on social media.
Maybe, you aren’t a compulsive tweeter or a regular instagrammer.
Does this mean that you are safe from the grips of social media obsession?
Let’s find out.
- Studies clearly indicate that on average a millennial checks their phone 32 times a day. Even if it’s not an addiction, it is still damaging to your retina (your eyes). A long duration of exposure to this “blue-light” can render irreversible damage to your eyes such as glaucoma or macular degeneration.
- The non-stop blinking of lights on your smartphone/laptop alters your melatonin production. You need ample melatonin in your body to sleep naturally. With the growing mania over finding out what’s happening “out-there”, you are developing unhealthy sleeping patterns.
- An unhealthy sleeping pattern is a pandora’s box of illnesses, starting from decreased immunity to high risk of stroke and heart diseases.
- You also tend to develop dry eyes. This is where you stop blinking as much as you should. This results in the lesser production of tears that keep our eyes lubricated. Ergo, you gradually start losing out on normal vision.
- A significant number of smartphone users tend to develop a bad posture. You can spot them checking on the latest piece of breaking news on FB or Twitter, neck bent downwards, shoulders drooped, and back hunched.
- A bad posture spawns multiple health issues such as a chronic backache, rounded shoulders, neck pain, and other vertebral disorders.
What else can social media addiction result in?
If these weren’t enough, social media addiction can actually result in numerous direct and indirect health and well-being complications. Few of them are…
- Chronic social isolation can be damaging to you at a genetic level. Human beings evolved as social creatures, who are biologically hard-wired to live in physical contact with others to have a normal healthy life. The social media wave, which has left many as isolated, is altering our overall immune and bodily responses. This particular deadly trait of social media has resulted in increased incidence of cancer, many experts believe.
- People hardly access social media while running on a treadmill. Additionally, high levels of social media use are directly linked to larger periods of physical inactivity. Collectively, our lifestyles have spawned a dangerous disease called “Sitting Disease” (sedentary lifestyle). This messes up with our actual metabolism leading to large number of metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
- The “compare & despair” attitude we tend to develop on social media (people traveling to exotic locations, people getting married, or people traveling to exotic locations to get married) gives rise to stress. Not to mention,stress hinders your immunity and makes you physically more vulnerable to diseases. In addition to this, the unrealistic body-images circulating the internet often make a lot of people become a victim of eating disorders.
- Noy to mention,cyber-bullying is one of the cruelest ways people can suffer because of unethical online behavior. This affects teenagers more than adults. Almost 50% of all young people have experienced cyber-bullying. It adds significantly to the emotional and psychological burden of the receiver. Such individuals tend to develop low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. It also paves a path for substance abuse.
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