Avatar diagnosis: 9 questions about how social media affects health 

By | May 29, 2021

MARTHONES, TABLETS AND LAPTOPS BECOME AN INTEGRAL PART OF our lives – and with them social networks, without which work and personal communication now seems unthinkable. What do we know about social media? Almost everything, if we talk about their use for life, work and creativity (even our editorial cat has Instagram ). Enough if you keep in mind the interface and hidden features. And almost nothing, if we talk about the prospects – it is still difficult to say what the social networks of the future will look like and how they affect our physical and mental health. Scientists are concerned about the most diverse facets of online communication, and a considerable amount of research has already accumulated. We have collected answers to the main questions about social networks and health in one material.

Does social media really make
us stupider?

Some believe that a person whose life is locked on social networks loses not only the connection with reality, but also the sharpness of the mind. A team from the University of Texas, with the help of eight hundred volunteers, decided to investigate the issue. It turned out that smartphones really do not have the best effect on our cognitive abilities, but there are several bugs here.

First, the study focused specifically on the use of smartphones, and not on social networks. Secondly, only those participants who showed signs of device dependence (more on this below) were recorded deteriorating test results. Thirdly, this only happened when the smartphone was lying directly in front of the person. Simply put, social media – as well as smartphones – is no big deal for the intellect, unless someone spends all their time with them.

Is there a social media addiction ?

In theory, this is, of course, possible. While some scientists argue whether Facebook addiction can be considered a separate type of addiction, and not a subtype of Internet addiction (spoiler: yes, but more research is needed), others say that it is addiction, and not just online activity, that can explain the connection between social networks and depression. In any case, everything is not so simple.

When discussing social media addiction, it is important to understand that its comparison with alcohol and drug addiction is not justified. Here are the numbers that put everything in its place: technology, like other forms of entertainment, really provoke the release of dopamine, so that this figure becomes 50-100% higher than normal. But cocaine increases levels by 350% and methamphetamine by an impressive 1200%. In any case, until the WHO added network addiction to its International Classification of Diseases, as it did with computer games, it is too early to make strong statements.

Why is it so difficult to refuse them?

It cannot be denied that most of us are drawn to social media with irresistible force. Scientists from Harvard University spoke about why this is happening back in 2012 . In a series of experiments, they found that disclosing information about oneself on the Internet activates the part of the brain associated with pleasure. And all would be fine, but it was the same part of the brain’s reward system, which is activated in the process of sex and / or eating your favorite fast food.

In addition, research has shown that active use of social media increases a person’s social capital, so that they automatically feel better. Coupled with the evidence that social media communication is associated with feelings of general well-being and increased self-esteem, this explains why we get hooked on news feeds, likes, and reposts so easily.

Does it make sense to limit children on social media?

According to a 2017 survey in Silicon Valley, most parents, although they believe in the power and importance of technology, prefer to raise their children without gadgets, limiting their time on the web. Among the “low-tech” the parents belonged even Steve Jobs – like Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple, which in January 2018 , said he would not allow his nephew to register on social networks.

It’s not just about “suicidal” games, which supposedly inadequately affect the fragile child’s psyche (besides, new research shows that social media and suicide are no more connected than “potatoes and suicide”). However, modern psychologists are concerned that the replacement of real communication with a virtual one has a depressing effect on the emotional state of children and adolescents, provoking an “epidemic of misfortune” among young people. Scientists from the University of San Diego found that children who spend more than five hours a day on the Internet are significantly less happy than those who devote no more than an hour a day to the Internet.

What can a social media account tell you about?

Actually about more things than it seems. A study published in 2014 found that there is an inverse relationship between public displays of feelings on Facebook and self-esteem: the more often a person says how happy they are in their current relationship and how lucky they are, the less confident they are. On the other hand, a similar study from 2012 says that people who post a photo with a partner on a social media profile are generally more satisfied with the relationship than those who post a solo photo.

Scientists from Harvard and Vermont have also found that analyzing an Instagram profile can reveal depression in a user. The study used a special program that focused on a few obvious markers: more frequent placement of photos, more faces in pictures, and a darker color scheme. It sounds too simple – but the program was able to correctly identify people with depression in 70% of cases. In addition, there is evidence that people who use more happy emoticons when publishing posts and comments on social networks are more likely to be more optimistic and sincere in life.

Who needs a digital detox and why

Lately, the idea of ​​ditching social media – at least for the weekend – has become incredibly popular . In 2010, researchers from the University of Maryland conducted surveys among students to find out how important smartphones and social networks are to them. So it turned out that most of them felt bad when they had to spend more than a day without a phone and the Internet, preferring the smartphone to the time spent with their loved one if they had to choose one thing.

On the other hand, many experts believe that digital detox and media diets are a story from a series of activated charcoal lemonades , which, of course, do not harm, but not that they help in any way. So attention is necessary to focus not on how much time a person spends in the network, but rather on what he’s been .

How are social media and body dysmorphophobia related ?

Social networks are regularly suspected of catalyzing bodily dysmorphophobia – dissatisfaction with one’s own body and even hatred of it, associated with the search for contrived flaws, eating disorders and other mental difficulties. The essence of the claims boils down to the fact that photos on Instagram form a distorted image of the body, so that one’s own gradually begins to seem to a person “somehow different”.

Plastic surgeons are increasingly saying that social media is provoking more surgeries. Today, patients come to them not with photographs of celebrities, as before, but with snapchat filters, which allows us to speak of a new type of dysmorphophobia. On the other hand, body positivity does its job: social networks are becoming a platform through which people, whose appearance was not previously represented in the media space, tell the whole world about themselves – and then appear in advertising campaigns, go to the podium and prove by their own example that any the body is worthy of respect.

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