Make Sure Your Social Media Use Isn’t Hurting Your Health

Emily Kelley-Brown, MPH, RD, Arivale Coach
Emily Kelley-Brown
MPH, RD, Arivale Coach

Are you one of the estimated 2.34 billion people1 who use social media? Do you tweet, snap, or ‘gram? It may seem fun and benign, but your social media activity can have real consequences on your health. Studies show social media usage can impact mental health, physical health, success with health goals, and body image2,3,4.

Here’s how you can assess social media’s role in your life to turn it from a wellness enemy to a wellness ally.

How much time are you spending on social media?

Start by evaluating how much time you’re spending on all social media platforms. Tally up each of those minutes spent scrolling over coffee, on the bus, at lunch, or in the evening. You might be shocked to find you’re spending upwards of two hours every day surfing social media.

Is this time helping you toward your health goal?

Think about your health goals. Is your time spent on social media moving you forward? A lack of free time is often cited as a barrier to reaching individual health goals. How much time could you free up by adjusting your social media habits? Say you spend 30 minutes surfing Facebook every day while eating lunch. One of your wellness goals is to plan healthy meals, but it’s been hard to implement because you’re busy at home. What if you committed one of your weekday lunches to meal planning and writing a shopping list? Take your efficiency to the next level by ordering groceries online during lunch the next day.

How do you feel when you log off?

Do you suffer from FOMO? (That’s “fear of missing out,” for the adults in the room.) How about body dissatisfaction? Or feelings of failure because you haven’t packed meticulous bento box lunches for your kids and it seems like every other parent did? Being bombarded with unrealistic images in quick succession on social media can lead to negative emotions and self-talk.

Research has found a correlation between Facebook usage and body image concerns in both men and women, including higher internal motivation for thinness, self-objectification, and dieting3. These feelings can impact your actions and how you view your own success. How would this change if you swapped social media for a funny podcast or an enjoyable book?

Does your feed reflect your morals, goals, and physical body?

If the images showing up on your Instagram or Pinterest trigger negative feelings, then perhaps you’re following the wrong people. Block those that make you feel bad about yourself and search for others who lift you up or who reflect your own body type. A quick search of hashtags like #healthyeating or #bodypositive can help you access communities that leave you feeling inspired.

Access support systems.

Social media can be an ally in your health journey. Simply declaring your health goal on a public platform may make you more likely to follow through, and virtual support communities can provide accountability partners to help you find success. With a little thought and effort, you can prevent social media from hindering your progress and maybe even meet inspiring new friends along the way4.

 

References:

  1. “Percentage of U.S. population with a social media profile from 2008 to 2018.” Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/273476/percentage-of-us-population-with-a-social-network-profile/
  2. Grabe S, Ward ML, Hyde JS. “The role of the media in body image concerns among women: A meta-analysis of experimental and correlational studies.” Psychological Bulletin, Vol 134(3), May 2008, 460-476 http://psycnet.apa.org/buy/2008-04614-005
  3. Fardouly J and Vartanian LR. “Social Media and Body Image Concerns: Current Research and Future Directions.” Current Opinion in Psychology 2016, 9:1–5 https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/53a9/edcce1a05e34b0c0ed537fc126c2ec7f46d4.pdf
  4. University of California, Irvine, The Paul Merage School of Business. “How social media can help people lose weight.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2017 https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171128113520.htm