According to research nearly 80% of Americans are on social media. Its fun, entertaining, informative and a way to connect with family and friends… but could it be causing more harm than good and be the cause of unnecessary stress?
If you pull out your phone to check Instagram while waiting for the light to change, or read e-mails while brushing your teeth, you might be what the American Psychological Association (APA) calls a “constant checker.” And chances are, it’s hurting your mental health. The APA released a study earlier this year finding that Americans were experiencing the first statistically significant stress increase in the survey’s 10-year history and largely from what they believe is related to social media.
Social media use has skyrocketed from 7 percent of American adults in 2005 to 65 percent in 2015. For those in the 18 -29 age range, the increase is larger, from 12 percent to a remarkable 90 percent. But while an increase in social media usage is hardly surprising, the number of people who just can’t tear themselves away is ridiculous! Nowadays, 43 percent of Americans say they are checking their e-mails, texts, or social media accounts constantly. And their stress levels are paying for it: On a 10-point scale, constant checkers reported an average stress level of 5.3. For the rest of Americans, the average level is a 4.4.
The highest stress levels were reserved for those who constantly check their work e-mail on days off. Their average stress level is 6.0. So those of you who think it’s somehow pleasant to work from home on a Saturday afternoon, you’re actually fooling yourself. About 42 percent of constant checkers specifically point to political and cultural discussions as causing stress. And the impacts play out in real life—35 percent of constant checkers say they are less likely to spend time with family and friends because of social media.
So how is it stressing you out and what can you do about it?
Use Social Media to Share NOT Compare
A recent survey of Facebook users found that the most common source of frustration on the social media site was envy caused by browsing others’ profiles. To turn down the social media stress in your life, avoid turning Facebook into a game of keeping up with the Joneses. Instead of browsing through classmates’ photos to see who had the best summer ever with their bae while you were at home working (and single), use the network exclusively to talk to friends and share fun updates on your life.
Be Careful NOT to Overshare
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap chat, and other social media sites are a wonderful way to share photos, observations and life updates with your friends and followers. But be selective about what you post for the world to see — does everyone need to know the details or your recent break-up, or cryptic song lyrics that describe your anger and confusion over it? Probably not.
The golden rule is as important on social media as it is in every other part of life: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Negative or sarcastic comments are best kept to yourself. Also, when posting your own statuses, try not to vent your feelings too much. Studies have shown bad moods are “contagious” via social media — Facebook users can directly impact the emotions of their friends for up to three days.
Keep Your Love Life Offline
Whether you’re single, happily coupled, or breaking up, keep your love life off Facebook. It might be fun for a while to post #RelationshipGoals and #Bae statuses, but they’ll likely annoy your friends and make your relationship a whole lot more complicated. According to Mashable, 25 percent of people had found out their relationship was over because their #Bae changed their relationship status to “single.” You don’t want that to be you.
Keep Your Photos Clean
If you wouldn’t want an employer or a teacher to see it, keep it offline. No exceptions. Risqué or incriminating photos are best kept to yourself (or not taken at all) — you don’t want to leave a digital footprint of all your mistakes, especially the ones you don’t even remember.
Choose your friends wisely
Studies have shown that having more Facebook friends leads to increased stress levels, finding a link between larger online networks and social anxiety. Don’t worry about getting everyone to follow you on IG or Twitter and friend you on Facebook. To minimize social media anxiety, periodically go through and delete friends and followers you may not know very well or no longer want to share updates with. Hit delete on the trolls.
Take time to unplug
When social media is stressing you out, sometimes the best thing to do is walk away from your phone or laptop and just unplug for a few hours or a couple days. Temporarily disable your account if you need an intervention. And that includes unplugging from your fake account that you have on the down low for your trolling expeditions. And no, don’t ask your girlfriend to use her account to look for you. (And don’t front like you’ve never done that)
Stress is a contributing factor for multiple physical, psychological and emotional unhealthy conditions. Try these social media detox tips to keep your mind, body and spirit in order. Too much of anything is never a good thing and that includes social media. How do you avoid social media stress? Share in the comments below and tweet @BlackEnterprise @AskNurseAlice using #StressLess
Nurse Alice is a nationally board-certified and award-winning cardiac clinical nurse specialist with nearly two decades of experience in cardiovascular health. She is a community health activist and freelance media health expert. She has appeared on various national radio and TV shows including Dr. Oz, The Doctors, Dr. Drew, News One with Roland Martin, Tom Joyner Morning Show and more. She is also the author of “Curb Your Cravings: 31 Foods to Fool Your Appetite.”