With the rise of social media in the so-called “digital age,” people are spending hours upon hours on their devices. Evidence is showing that, if unchecked, heavy social media usage can be harmful to our mental and physical health. It's worth considering a digital detox.

The advent of technology has brought with it countless apps for people to connect and share parts of their lives in new and creative ways. Instagram is like an online photo album showcasing peoples’ lives; Facebook is a way to stay in touch with people across the globe and post statuses about any topic in real time. But can social media have an effect on our health? More and more studies are proving it can. A cross-sectional, anonymous survey of 7-12th graders in Ontario, Canada found that 20% of students reported 5 hours or more of social media usage per day. Staring at a screen for this long is can affect our vision long-term and alter our sleep-cycles. Moreover, this time could perhaps be better spent by engaging in physical activity, calling a friend (during this time of social distancing), or journaling.

Social media is not all bad. On the contrary, now more than ever, we need our devices to stay connected during this social distancing time. The research comments more on the amount of time that a person is spending on social media, suggesting that heavy users of social media are more likely to struggle with anxiety and depression than occasional users. Heavy use can facilitate feelings of inadequacy, and users may compare their lives to the seemingly flawless and “picture-perfect” highlight reel of other consumers. This is why a digital detox may be worth trying. The article suggests trying things like enforcing a digital curfew (for example, no social media past 9PM) or taking holidays for brief periods of time. It may even mean scaling back on the amount of apps a person is using (only committing to using one or two apps versus multiple at a time).

At CalPsychiatry, our physicians are committed to improving your mental and physical health, and this may include evaluating your relationship with social media. We can help you come up with creative ways to stay connected to others while perhaps decreasing your overall time on social media. Our empathic physicians can also provide psychotherapy, where you can express some of the feelings and issues that social media may precipitate.

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