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A lot of people say I spend too much time on my phone. If I’m not scrolling through my timeline, I’m retweeting a friend or eyeing yoga masters on Instagram. I would like to say that my phone is an extension of me, but in actual fact it’s the apps that are ruling my life.

Every night I find myself sleeping between 11 pm and midnight. No, I’m not working or exercising, Instead I am looking at new recipes, liking inspirational quotes, and saving videos. It was only when I noticed how my writing was suffering due to my chronic fatigue ( I can’t function on six hours of sleep) that I decided to deactivate my Facebook account, and reassess my fascination with social media.

Was social media worsening my depression? Were my eating habits being impacted? Did I sacrifice quality time for a like and a 160 character post? Was social media really taking over my day to day life?

There have been many studies that have linked depression to social media usage. Countless of articles can be read on this topic, but below are five ways social media is impacting your mental health:

1. Addiction

How much time do you spend on social media everyday? Although most of us always claim to not have time, the average person spends almost two hours everyday on social media. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook or Instagram; we spend valuable minutes doing very little apart from liking and commenting. Whether it is to escape our daily reality, or pass time, we feel a compulsive need to check our accounts. Just to make sure there are no unattended notifications. The idea of addiction may seem far fetched, but when was the last time you were at a social gathering and people weren’t on their phones updating Snapchat or Pinterest?

Are you addicted to social media? Use the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS) to find out.

2. Poor productivity

A few minutes on YouTube, becomes 5 hours. The report on your desk is not even touched, and you promised your boss you would do it first thing in the morning. Although we all claim to be masters at multitasking, the brain has difficulty focusing on more than one task at a time. So instead of giving 100% to the task at head, your focus becomes divided between your job, updating your Facebook status and following the latest trending topic. This leaves you mentally exhausted, and in a lot of trouble with the boss.

3. Low self-esteem

Why am I so fat? Maybe I should dress like that? Will I ever get married? Am I good enough?

These are just a few of the questions many of us ask ourselves as we scroll through profiles on social media. Our times lines are filled with announcements of marriage, pregnancy and dream vacations. We see pictures of flashy cars and fancy offices, all in the while wishing we were them. However one needs to keep in mind that social media is deceiving in many aspects. People always out their best foot forward, often embellishing their reality. All in attempts to make themselves feel less inadequate than the next person.

4. Cyber bullying

Top-20-Cyber-Bullying-Facts-1Cyber bullying is the ugly side of social media that many do not talk about. A growing percentage of users are becoming victim to cyber bullying, but a very small percentage of this harassment is reported to site administrators or law enforcement. Cyber bullying includes offensive speech, posting embarrassing or sexually suggestive images of an individual on social media without their permission, as well as threats against ones life.

5. Reduced physical activity

An increasing number of people are opting out of exercise in order to have more time on social media. Poor blood circulation and an increase in unhealthy snacking are just a few examples of what happens when one chooses social media over the gym.

 

Have you become a victim of social media? Perhaps you would like to join me as I challenge myself to a month with no Facebook (perhaps Instagram will follow)?

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Ros Limbo
mulemwa.limbo@gmail.com