It seems an awful lot of research is done on the energy your cell phone might be broadcasting into your brain, and very little on what it might do to your psyche.
Cell phones don’t damage your brain. We can say that after a lot of research on an immense population of users. And I have never met a neurosurgeon who didn’t use a cell phone. However, our little pocket super-computers certainly interact with us in significant ways, some of which are not very constructive.
For all the heady benefit from having essentially the sum of all human knowledge instantly available, there are psychiatric consequences. One would expect a little vertigo from those dizzying heights. After all, what are you (or I) doing with that priceless resource? Since we are not talking about a vague, general unease, let’s get personal.
Social medial is personal; that is the point. You are putting some aspect of your life on the web for all, or many, to see (sometimes those get confused). Most people go about this much as you do. They carefully select the photos, quotes and media that reflect how amazing they are. It would probably be diagnosable if they didn’t.
It might surprise you that social media is considered by some to be addicting. It is not hard to find damage in a robust user’s life where social media is sucking energy that could be better used at work or in relationships.
Inability to control your Internet media habit in the face of negative consequences is the textbook definition of addiction. Do you get a little twitchy if your cell phone is out of sight?
A serious social media habit requires constant vigilance. This causes you to multitask your way through the workday. Multitasking is a very inefficient way to work because your brain does not load detail on multiple separate tasks simultaneously. You only think it does. You believe you are super efficient doing four things at once, when actually you are doing each one at slow speed.
Your mood can also be affected. Depression and anxiety are more common in frequent social media users. It seems we tend to accept media at face value. The entire advertising industry operates because of this. Drink a certain brand of soda, and your life will be a beach party. Drive the right car and you will be irresistible. Sounds pretty crazy in writing, but do you really think companies are spending tens of millions of dollars on advertising because it doesn’t work?
Social medial is personal, focused advertising, and it is more impactful because the individual has chosen to view the content. Some unconscious part of you is looking at all the smiling, laughing pictures and wondering why your life is not that much fun. Perhaps you should buy a soda, or a car.
But no movement gets this big without redeeming qualities. Something we all have to deal with as part of the human condition is that life isn’t fair. Hardly a revelation, but we act and think like we expect it to be. Social grace is like singing, there is every variation between frog and Frank. For those of us who find human interaction stressful and unpleasant, social media gives us a community. We can share as much as we dare, and often with practice it improves. Keep in mind that bullies may be found in every kind of community.
Social media is a discussion that has layers of meaning and influence, both intended and unintended.
Type with care.
Donald Bucklin, MD (Dr. B), is a Regional Medical Director for U.S. HealthWorks and has been practicing clinical occupational medicine for more than 25 years. Dr. B. works in our Scottsdale, Arizona clinic.