Why social media may be causing real emotional harm

By | June 24, 2019

“Mens sana, in corpore sano,” goes the old Latin saying. “A healthy mind in a healthy body.”  It’s vital that way pay proper attention not only to our physical existence but to our minds and souls; to the intangible but essential part of who we are.

While I write a lot about things we need to do to keep our bodies healthy, it’s important to remember that our eyes and minds are daily confronted by something that creates enormous frustration, anxiety and even rage.  And that thing is social media.  Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become deeply embedded in our society (and psyches), but not necessarily for our own good.

Unfortunately, social media have become platforms where we go to share our ideas, to berate the ideas of others and to bemoan the fact that nobody online is nice.

Why am I discussing this in a health column?  Because the pervasive nature of social media touches so many.  Small children (unfortunately) have access to smartphones.  Senior citizens, with more free time on their hands, spend hours looking online, commenting on posts and putting up their own; sometimes entirely unaware of the strange “rules of engagement” that seem to pervade all online interactions.  Everyone in between young and old is doing the same.

While all of these apps and sites initially appeared to be harmless fun, the sad reality is that appear to be causing real emotional harm to the people who use them, producing growing anxiety and depression.  While much research is directed at the effects of social media on adolescents, I’m confident that even seniors suffer from the false promise of social media.

The sad thing is this: Social media is designed to addict us.  Why is that? Addicted people keep using.  “But Dr. Leap, it’s free!” Sure, we generally don’t pay to belong.  But we are a product, sold to advertisers. And every time we post or respond to a post, products get more views.

Worse, social media companies have designed complex algorithms to track what we do and to constantly put contentious things in front of us that make us keep clicking and keep arguing.  And that ultimately make us more angry, robbing us humor, rest, joy, hope and witness.  And it only enriches those who so enslave us to those screens, large and small.

But we are robbed of something far worse than money.  We are robbed of our peace of mind.  And that’s a good reason to avoid, or dramatically limit, our engagement in the world of social media.

“Mens sana in corpore sano.”  An oldie, but good advice after all when it comes to the electronic poisons which surround us.

Edwin Leap is an emergency physician who blogs at edwinleap.com and is the author of the Practice Test and Life in Emergistan

Image credit: Shutterstock.com


KevinMD.com