Giving our full attention to the screens in front of us may feel like something that’s hard to kick. Without realizing it, an hour, or two, or five, can fly by just by binge watching your favorite show, reading articles online, or scrolling through the different social media platforms.
The average person will spend more than five days of their life on social media, reading status updates from people we don’t know in real life, and feeling bad about ourselves and our life progress after comparing and contrasting our lives to the people we see online.
Dr. Marc Milstein says that the impact of social media on our brains is still a new and emerging area of brain science. “In many ways, we are still in the midst of the experiment of what social media does to our brains,” Milstein says.
Can you get depressed, anxious and royally stressed out from spending two or more hours on social media every day?
Listen to what these psychologists and doctors say happens to our brains when we’re scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, on autopilot.
Spending more than a few hours of time on social media on a daily basis can affect your brain in different ways:
1. You Get Addicted
The more you start going on social media, regularly, the more you’ll notice it gets harder and harder to stop.
Psychologist Nekeshia Hammond says that’s because our brains begin to crave going online.
“Whether it's to check a celebrity's latest outing, your aunt's recent new recipe, or vacation pictures from your friends, it becomes a constant "yearning" that happens in your brain,” says Hammond. “Your dopamine levels, the "reward center" of your brain could potentially be affected, which leads to more cravings of the mental satisfaction with social media.”
2. Your Attention Span Becomes Altered
When you find yourself glued to your phone, it can not only be hard to put it down, but also hard to realize that you’re on it, especially when other people are around.
Hammond says that you begin to get distracted doing daily tasks, because you constantly want to check what the latest and greatest is online.
“Instead of solely focusing on work and family, your social media time drastically starts to eat into your day and your brain becomes accustomed to this constant checking,” says Hammond.
3. You Can Feel Mentally Fatigued
Spending hours on social media could make you feel like you need a nap. Hammond explains that this happens because of all the urges we give into to stay on social media instead of doing something else.
“Your brain can feel "mental fatigue" from repeatedly finding the need to go onto Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media platforms,” says Hammond. “This mental fatigue can then start to impact other important areas of your life.”
4. You May Feel Depressed
Without even realizing it, spending so much time online and seeing all the seemingly wonderful things everyone else Is posting, can have an affect on how you feel and how you act.
“Some people have reported an increase in depression,” says Hammond. “The fact of the matter is that social media is a "highlight reel" of people's lives. When all you see are blissful pictures of vacations, couples madly in love, and the best home cooked dinners you've ever seen, you may start to feel like you are missing out. The reality is though everyone has unhappy days, but most people don't post them.”
5. You May Lose Touch With Reality
When you’re scrolling through your newsfeed, you might start to lose touch with how humans communicate in real life and begin to lose touch with reality.
“When your brain begins to associate "likes", "friend requests", and "connections" as intimate relationships and reflections of who you are as a person, that can be problematic,” says Hammond. “When social media begins to interfere with your interpersonal relationships, it's time to reconsider the amount of time you are spending online.”
So how do we kick this bad habit? Dr. Milstein says that it might be a good idea to force yourself to give your brain a complete break from your phone and social media.
“Practice focusing without social media interruptions in order to maintain and improve focus,” Dr. Milstein says. “The impulse to check your phone can be so strong it can help to put your phone in another room during your social media breaks.”
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