As recently as 2005, just 7 percent of adults were using social media; today, that number has skyrocketed to over 65 percent, with young adults up at 90 percent.
Not surprisingly, a full 99 percent of adults own an electronic device (computer, smartphone, tablet etc.).
There’s no arguing that this type of technology has improved lives, and social media has made staying in touch with friends, family and colleagues simpler and cheaper for many around the world. In just over 10 short years, social media and text messaging has become an integral part of our social interactions.
Many of you won’t be surprised to hear that teenagers and young adults are now more likely to communicate via text messaging and social media than in-person.
We all know someone who is constantly and compulsively checking their e-mails, texts, and social media feeds. You may even be one of them. This ‘constant checker’ type now comprises nearly half of the population in the U.S., and this obsessive behaviour comes with some unpleasant and damaging side effects.
Being continuously connected in this way is a modern condition, and is linked with considerably higher stress levels, particularly among the constant checkers. These individuals report feeling more worry and stress about the effects of social media on their health than non-checkers, and conversely tend to feel a greater sense of disconnection from their family, even when in the same room.
Many of us have a growing sense of unease about the increased use of these modern day communication outlets, and intuitively know that unplugging every now and then is somehow important for our mental health. But in reality, only 28 percent of those who agree actually report doing so. And managing their children’s usage is reported as a constant battle for the majority of American parents.
All this use of social media can have a negative impact on an individual’s feeling of happiness and well-being too. A growing number of studies show a link between increased time spent on social media, and a risk for loneliness and depression.
A recent study from Indiana University explored this topic, and found that users of social media may experience more social dissatisfaction and unhappiness as a result of comparing their happiness and popularity to that of their friends.
Other research analysis performed by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh suggests that young adults are more likely to be socially isolated as their use of social media increases. They also found an association between depression and extended periods of time on social media.
Similar findings were revealed in studies of individuals who binge-watch tv shows, with links to fatigue, obesity, loneliness and depression.
While not all social media and technology use is inherently unhealthy, and not everyone will experience difficulties managing their use, these emerging potential risks suggest a need to better manage our time spent engaged in these activities. Research suggests that one doesn’t need to quit social media entirely; simply taking break now and then, and regulating one’s behavior and choices on social media can mitigate many of the risks.
As technological connectivity continues to entwine itself into our modern reality, discretionary use of social media to maintain and enhance our social ties, and finding a healthy balance between our online and in-person relationships may just give us the best of both worlds.
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