Are social media sites making us sick?

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

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Are sites such as Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites addictive and causing health conditions? Experts say yes. Social networking, however, offers many advantages like meeting new people across the globe and finding old friends, but these advanced technological forms of communication are actually hurting people's social skills.

Facebook is now being called "Facecrack". The Facebook mobile app brings the addictive experience to the centre of the dining experience, dating and even wedding vows. The cellphone has become a status symbol and has been touted a necessity to check email, take pictures, play games, listen to music, and even locate where you are driving in your car.

A study in the United Kingdom found 66 per cent of cellphone users have developed a technologically advanced medical condition called nomophobia. Nomophobia is an intense fear of losing or becoming disconnected from being able to use one's cellphone. A similar poll found that 75 per cent used their phone while in the bathroom and would not consider going without it.

Seventy-seven per cent of people between the ages 18 to 24 have been found to be nomophobic. People ages 25 to 34 followed closely with a 68 per cent diagnosis rate. Another study found people check their cellphones on an average 34 times per day. Forty-nine per cent stated that they would not feel comfortable with their significant other going through their SMS messages.

Experts agree that social media sites actually make it harder for us to distinguish between meaningful relationships and a large number of casual relationships on Facebook. They have the ability to connect us to the world but disconnect us from our faith, family, job, and the real world.

Another study about Facebook found that too much social media time could cause anger, envy, complaining, and unhappiness. Facebook effectively provides a platform for social comparison and can leave you feeling lonely, frustrated and depressed as well. It changes how you feel about yourself and other people, and the negative health implications are numerous.

Yet another study found people that spent less time socialising on Facebook and more time with real-life friends were less likely to be depressed. Facebook "friends" are more likely to depict the happiest times of their lives versus negative or depressing events. This causes people to believe that happiness is a constant in their friends' lives.

Researchers have also found excessive social media use to be associated with a higher body-mass index, poor dietary habits, reduced physical activity, low self-worth and higher levels of monetary debt. You're constantly being fed products, services and other goods that can have significant effects on consumer judgement and decision-making. Technology is supposed to make life easier - not lazier and sicker.

Ask yourself the following questions to determine your level of addiction: If you're unable to go on Facebook, do you feel anxious or disturbed? Do you bring your cellphone every place you go, including the bathroom? If you have any downtime, do you choose to check Facebook first? Do you have a panic attack from a dead battery or Internet outages? You may have a problem if you or your child is more willing to give up a toothbrush for a week versus Facebook and other social media sites.

Dr Cory Couillard is an international health care speaker and columnist for numerous publications throughout the world. He works in collaboration with the World Health Organisation's goals of disease prevention and global health care education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.




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