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Social Media, Health & Life Choices



I can remember calling the grocery store and having my father paged to the phone to remind him to pick up something that was not on the shopping list. Driving in a new city meant pulling out a road atlas and crossing your fingers that it was up to date enough to get you to your destination. And if you forgot to buy film, then you would not be getting any nice pictures on your family vacation. Today, that seems like another world.


Technology has changed our lives in ways that were unimaginable to most people twenty years ago, and many of these changes have really improved how we navigate our daily lives. Access to knowledge is instant. Communicating with friends and family all over the world is possible in real time - even video calling family and friends (straight out of Star Trek!!). But with all these benefits, of course there has to be a down side.


The human brain is highly prone to addiction. The reward centers in the brain get triggered by social media usage through the same psychological and biological pathways as using a drug. Unlike using a drug (which generally stays the same), social media algorithms are constantly changing to make you MORE addicted. The more you use your social media, the more curated content you are given, making it harder and harder to stop scrolling and put down your device.


"Social media is the sugar of civilization today. Not only are we suffering from alarming rates of metabolic syndrome physically, we are now suffering from a metabolic media syndrome globally."
  • Gina Ditta-Donahue



Researchers have been examining the effect of social media on mental health and are finding an increase in body image issues, cyberbullying, depression, loneliness, and a decrease in overall life satisfaction. Not only has social media use demonstrated a negative effect on mental health, but we see rising obesity rates in adolescents linked to use as well.


While individuals of all ages can become easily addicted to the constant interaction with social media, adolescents are particularly at risk. The video below is a short bonus clip from the documentary The Social Dilemma, in it experts share information about how social media algorithms are linked to declining mental and physical health.



Just like metabolic syndrome causes chronic inflammation and dysregulation in the body, social media use and algorithms can lead to societal inflammation in the form of riots, hate speech, extremist activity and political violence.


Also, just like with metabolic syndrome, the choices we make can bring about healing with a "root cause" approach.

Changing the conversation and moving toward a solution


There are technology and health leaders currently working on creating effective solutions to address the operating models that regulate social media and marketing algorithms that prioritize profit over your health.


The Center for Humane Technology is one such organization that is actively seeking to protect individuals.


Dr Robert Lustig, a pediatrician and neuroendocrinologist with University of Southern California, San Francisco is also an active voice against the processed food industry and marketing practices that have contributed to declining mental health, obesity and disease.


Jeff Orlowski, American Filmmaker, directed and co-wrote the documentary The Social Dilemma, which interviews tech insiders who reveal how social media is reprogramming civilization.


Real time solutions for for you


Social media and device technology has brought amazing improvements to our daily lives. When do these improvements begin to be overshadowed by the negative consequences of its use? Setting limits on the use of technology is a great first step to maintaining a healthy balance between living life and consuming media.


  1. Set a number of hours a day you are allowed to use your device and stick to it - keep track of usage on your device.

  2. Set intermittent technology fasts - put down your devices and do not use them for 14-16 hours at a time.

  3. Leave devices out of the bedroom to eliminate night-time scrolling which often follows "let me just see what time it is .... "

  4. Stop using devices at least 30 minutes prior to bed (to decrease the effects of blue light, 2 hours is best).

  5. Have a "device free day" one day a week.

  6. Turn off all notifications.

  7. Do not watch recommended video content - YOU choose what you watch or consume.

  8. Avoid mindless scrolling - use your device to obtain specific information then put it down.

  9. Put your device out of sight for a period of time when you are done with work to allow yourself to get back into your actual life and relationships.

  10. Talk openly about self concept and self image with your children.

  11. Restrict social media use in children younger than 16 years old.

  12. Touch bases with your children about possible bullying, how they are feeling, what is happening with them in school and in their on-line lives.


How we are changing our relationship with social media


Our clinic will step away from posting on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. We will focus our time going forward on bringing you educational content that is intended to provide you with real life answers to your health related questions. Our content creation will focus more on educational videos, newsletters and on-line live events for Q&A sessions. More to come in the next few months.





References


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