Screens, social media and your health

Have you ever noticed how when people get a spare few minutes these days they instantly turn to their phone, or when at home they’re constantly on phone, laptop or tablet even after getting into bed?

Screens are a huge part of our culture and lives now; most people would panic if they left their phone at home or if all social media was switched off for a day.

But how does all this screen time really affect us and is it good for our mental and physical health?

Self esteem

Social media, which is what a lot of people are engaging with via their screens, can affect people in different ways. It’s a wonderful thing and helps connect people, helps families to stay in touch and can be a brilliant learning and growth tool. Conversely it can show only the brighter parts of people’s lives, the bits they want you to see – the perfect houses, ‘perfect’ (and digitally enhanced) bodies and faces, holiday check-ins, date nights, academic, sporting, social, parental and professional achievements. We all know that’s not how life really is all the time but still it can affect self-esteem when people compare their own seemingly dull and untidy (very normal!) lives with it.

People strive for as many ‘likes’ as possible and if they don’t get them they often see it as a failure in character or just as a personal fail.

You are much much more than your numbers of followers or likes.

Real life relationships

Have you seen people when they’re out for a meal as a couple or family and they’re all on their phones? Or parents with their children but ignoring the kids and looking at their phones instead? Social media and devices stop real life relationships from blossoming. People become so enthralled with what other, less important people, are doing that they forget to love and nurture the people they should love and nurture in real life. Proper face-to-face or voice-to-voice relationships are what really make us tick, and are irreplaceable.

Love the people you’re with, spend more time with them, talking, laughing and loving.

Brain trouble

Our natural body rhythms wake us up with daylight and make us sleepy as darkness falls. But now we have blue light from screens available 24/7. So instead of reducing the amount of light that comes into our eyes as the evening wears on, we sit staring at blue light and the brain doesn’t know when it’s night or day any more.

People go to bed and spend an hour scrolling through social media or surfing the net on phones or tablets, and then they can’t sleep. They might wake in the night and reach for their phone because they can’t sleep, but the phone just wakes the brain up even more.

Switch it off or turn it to orange light mode at least when darkness falls.

Couch-potato’ing

You know how you can get so into scrolling through your phone or tablet, or watching TV, that you don’t actually move for hours? Not good. We’re designed to move; it helps food to digest, it improves mood, circulation, organ function, leg strength, flexibility, blood sugar control, energy burn/ metabolism and is 100% necessary for good health.

The percentage of screen time that is necessary for good health is actually zero!

Emotion and drama

People get highly emotional and dramatic from behind their devices, moreso than they ever would in real life. They have an audience so they play to it. Emotions are heightened, dramatic situations are alluded to, there are ‘vaguebooks’, passive aggressive memes and everything is just polarised to create an effect. In real life there wouldn’t be such a huge element of contagious negative emotions. In real life you see people’s facial expressions, talk through issues quietly to others, one-to-one and generally find far less drama in a situation.

Keep your posts positive, educational or conversational.

Addiction

Screen time and social media can be an actual addiction, and a bad one. Addiction is “An inability to stop doing or using something.”

Dopamine is a chemical of addiction that makes you to want, desire, seek out, and search for pleasure. That pleasure and validation can come from getting likes and interactions on social media. We want instant gratification from text or message replies, likes, shares, comments and so on.

If you want an addiction get one for fresh air or giving special people your attention.

Sight

Constantly looking at something that’s a short distance from your face does not give your eyes the chance to look at stuff in the distance, so they get worse at it. Eyes should be used through their full range, often.

Go outdoors and look at faraway things!

The good stuff

The internet and social media, and even TV, can have huge positive effects on life. You meet new and likeminded people and make new friends, you learn so much and can get support when you need it; you can keep up with family and friends who live far away or who you don’t get to see much, and there are a million things about it that make life easier and better. It’s only that we all spend a bit too much time on it!

Things to consider
  • Try having an hour every morning when you wake up without looking at your phone, tablet, TV or computer.
  • Turn your screen to nighttime mode when it gets dark, so it emits orange light instead of blue.
  • Try a whole Sunday without social media or the internet.
  • Don’t have your phone or tablet at the dinner table.
  • Leave your phone/tablet/laptop in another room when you go to bed.
  • Make more time to see people face to face.
  • If you’re with someone, be with them and not on your phone.
  • Keep using the internet and social media, it’s fantastic, but live your real life too.

 

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