Social media and internet use have become as much a part of our life as cooking, watching television, going to work, and participating in your favorite hobby. In fact, they often augment and even replace these things—and more. While social media and the internet arguably can enhance your life, there are also ways in which they impact your life negatively.
For many people, social interaction can be difficult. Social media and the internet use take some of the discomfort out of this by allowing users to have a certain level of anonymity. It helps people feel safer, less likely to incur long-term harassment if they make a social faux pas. Yet, this anonymity is not only a shield from embarrassment, but also from accountability.
There are dangers that accompany social media and internet use
This is especially true when they are used in place of face to face contact. It can even be used by nefarious users who wish to prey on young and at-risk individuals.
Perhaps the worst is online grooming, an attempt to seduce minors into meeting a stranger, who will then abduct and/or abuse them. This is a slow and deliberate process that seeks to gain information and trust from the victim.
Cyberbullying is more aggressive. It is public humiliation and harassment of a young (and sometimes adult) person. This leads to feelings of insecurity and can even result in suicide. Cyber racism and body shaming are just 2 forms of bullying people can encounter with social media and internet use.
Social Media and internet use has a less obvious sinister side to it
People commonly present a false picture of who they are on their social media accounts. The person who seems to have the perfect marriage or the perfect kids might be struggling to keep their family together. They most often present a more exciting picture of their lives than actually exists in reality. Unfortunately, most people believe what they read and compare their lives to their friends’ profiles. This can lead to increased discontentment and even depression.
Addiction to social media and internet use is not formally recognized by the medical/mental health community, yet; but there are scads of studies and articles highlighting its negative effects. For example, social media and internet use can become a replacement for more healthy face to face relationships. This is more likely to become an issue for some people than others.
“If a person has poor face-to-face communication skills that individual will likely be more attracted to the social features of online communication, which can foster CIU (compulsive internet use). Prior research suggests that socially anxious individuals perceive online communication environments as less threatening and, as a result, are more likely to seek out communication in those settings.”
Physical issues can also affect people who are excessively using the internet.
Eye strain, vision changes, and headaches may affect people who spend too much time looking at a screen. This can be minimized by using computer glasses.
Sleep disturbances are another common result of late-night screen time. The blue light emitted by phones, tablets and computers disrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle. A blue light filter such as f.lux can minimize this problem. Amazon has also added a blue light filter to their Fire tablets. Using these can help a lot.
Issues such as back and neck strain are becoming more common as people crane their necks to look at phones and tablets. Carpal tunnel has long been a recognized problem caused by typing and mouse-use. Other repetitive motion problems include thumb pain from texting. It might sound funny, but for anyone who has experienced it, it is no laughing matter. There are braces available which can mobilize the affected joint and help reduce the pain and swelling. The only thing that can completely eliminate the problem is to minimize the activity that brought it on.
And of course, obesity and other issues related to a sedentary lifestyle are an ever growing problem in our digital society.
Hackers and Cybercrime
Violation of privacy and financial security can also accompany social media and internet use. Over 4,000 ransomware attacks occur every single day. 81% of cyber-attacks are based on weak or stolen passwords.
Over 2 million blog posts are published on the Internet every single day.
40% of consumers will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.
The average attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds, this year the average attention span is just 8 seconds. That is less than the 9-second attention span of your average goldfish. Many psychologists feel the reason for this reduced attention span is the increased amount of time we spend on the internet where we bounce from one page to the next, in essence, training our brains to require immediate gratification. This is simplifying it, of course, but there is certainly enough anecdotal evidence to give one pause. It can’t hurt to reevaluate how your social media and internet use is affecting you.
Extensions and Apps to try
You can reduce the effect that social media and internet use has over your schedule. There are tons of apps that can turn off distracting websites and even report to you where you spent your time while using the internet. Here are some examples:
Trackr is a Chrome extension that can show you exactly how much time you spend on various sites in full color graphs. Once you know what sites are causing the most trouble in your schedule, you can use this information as you decide what
Stay Focused is a Chrome extension that blocks “time wasting” sites so you can concentrate on your work.
Freedom is a paid app for Mac, Windows, Android, and iOS. It can sync blocks across all of your devices allowing you to get more done, free of distractions. I have personally used this to keep my kids on track while they do their schoolwork.
Only you can decide how social media and internet use is affecting you and your kids. By taking an honest look at them, you can ensure that these tools are actually making your life better rather than worse.
During the month of January
I am taking a break from social media and I am only using the internet as much as is necessary for my job. This is something I did a year ago and benefited greatly from. Because of this break, I may not respond to your comments as quickly as I usually do. Your thoughts and ideas are still important to me, though, and I will eventually reply, so please share your thoughts below.
What Are YOUR Thoughts?
I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!
I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:
I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.
 Warren, Cortney S. “How Honest Are People on Social Media?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 30 July 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/naked-truth/201807/how-honest-are-people-social-media.
 “The Negative Effects of Internet Use.” Phys.org – News and Articles on Science and Technology, Phys.org, 9 Oct. 2012, phys.org/news/2012-10-negative-effects-internet.html.
And 3 Sanovski, Lisa. “100+ Internet Stats & Facts For 2018 You Should Know About.” Web Hosting Rating, 7 Dec. 2018, www.websitehostingrating.com/internet-statistics-facts-2018/.