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Social Media and our Health PDF Print E-mail
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Posted by Dr. Ahmad Latif in Dr. Latif's articles on June 01, 2015

40 years ago, the first email was delivered. Now, social media has taken the world by storm. The increased use of Social Networking Websites has become an international phenomenon in the past several years. What started out, as a hobby for some computer literate people has become a social norm and way of life for people from all over the world in so much little time.

In essence, social media defines an array of Internet sites that enable people from all over the world to interact. This can be through discussion, photos, video and audio. Facebook is the leading social networking site, with more than 1.2 billion global active users every month. The site's popularity is followed closely by Twitter, LinkedIn and Bebo. Despite the expanding use of social media, little has been published about its effect on our health. For many people these activities seem harmless, but some researchers suggest social media may affect our health and well-being.

HEALTH RISKS: Social media addiction Recent statistics show that 63% of American Facebook users log on to the site daily, while 40% of users log on multiple times a day. We all have our own reasons for using social media. Some of us like to browse at other people's status updates and photos, while others use the sites as a way to vent their emotions. But according to Dr. Shannon M. Rauch, of Benedictine University at Mesa, AZ, one of the main reasons we use social media is for self-distraction and boredom relief. "Therefore, social media is delivering a reinforcement every time a person logs on," she says. The negative impacts of social media In 2012, Anxiety UK conducted a survey on social media use and its effects on emotions. The survey found that 53% of participants said social media sites had changed their behavior, while 51% of these said the change had been negative.

Those who said their lives had been worsened by using social media also reported feeling less confident when they compared their achievements against their friends. "This problem has definitely gained recent attention," says Dr. Rauch. "We know that many people on social media sites often present idealized versions of their lives, leading others to make upward social comparisons, which can lead to negative emotions." Furthermore, the survey revealed that two thirds of participants reported difficulty relaxing and sleeping after they used the sites, while 55% said they felt "worried or uncomfortable" when they were unable to log onto their social media accounts.

The speed of this developing technology, however, has meant that at times potential risks have been overlooked. Some risks like online bullying or paedophile predators are obvious, but there are other ways that these technologies can have a negative impact. Social networking sites like Face book and MySpace are a great way for people to stay in contact with others, particularly those they may not see on a regular basis. Such sites, however, do seem to place an emphasis on people having a large number of 'friends', with the friend counter being prominently displayed on a person's profile. For the young age group, fitting in and being popular is an important aspect. Social networking sites have suddenly made popularity extremely public, something that can be scrutinised and measured. This has led to people spending considerable amounts of time on such sites, recruiting 'friends'. Maintaining one's social networking page can also become a time-consuming affair with people feeling they must keep up an online presence, frequently updating their profile picture, uploading photos, joining causes and responding to all their 'friends' postings and uploads. There are also countless games that users can play such as FarmVille, Facebook's virtual farm simulation game, all of which require a great deal of attention. The inclusion of social networking sites on mobile phones has meant that many people now have access even when away from their computer.

Texting and Car Accidents

According to the United States Department of Transportation, "text messaging while driving creates a crash risk 23 times higher than driving while not distracted. Despite these statistics, more than 37% of drivers have admitted to sending or receiving text messages while driving, and 18% admit doing so regularly. The National Safety Council's annual injury and fatality report, "Injury Facts," found that the use of cellphones causes 26% of the nation's car accidents. Most of the mobile-phone-related crashes occur because the driver is talking, some of the accidents happen because of texting. The 2014 NSC report says the percent of drivers observed manipulating handheld electronic devices increased from 0.9% in 2010 to 1.3% in 2011.

BENEFITS ON-LINE! It is good for old people, seniors, Training older people to use social media increases a sense of self-competence and could have a beneficial overall impact on mental health and physical well-being, according to a study carried out in the UK and Italy. Researchers found most of those who had the hardware and the know-how reported feeling less isolated because of the connections they could make with relatives, friends and people with shared interests. Though public awareness of the dangers of texting and driving does seem to be have increased over the past several years, the stats regarding distracted driving accidents haven’t decreased—more specifically, cell phone bans have largely proven ineffective in reducing the number of accidents caused by distracted driving. The numbers still stand, large and looming: In 2011, at least 23 percent of auto collisions involved cell phones. That adds up to 1.3 million crashes. So if laws don’t work, what will? Some experts say social media might be our best bet toward curbing unsafe driving behaviors.

Social Media and Healthcare

Social Media as a Tool in Medicine Social media has become an indelible part of the public health landscape. From Web-based appointment scheduling to online coaching for smoking cessation and weight loss, the Internet provides an increasingly valuable resource for customers of health services. Although the majority of these efforts concentrate on organizational tools for providing clients with improved services, an equally important use of social media has come from the emergence of peer-driven health communities. In the past decade, as the reach of Facebook and Twitter has grown, so, too, has the number of doctors, nurses and other medical workers who use those social networks.

“Take Two Aspirin and Tweet Me in the Morning”: Social Media are Reshaping Health Care

Below are some interesting statistics and figures.

 More than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health.

 18 to 24 year olds are more than 2x as likely than 45 to 54 year olds to use social media for health-related discussions.

 90% of respondents from 18 to 24 years of age said they would trust medical information shared by others on their social media networks.

 60% of doctors say social media improves the quality of care delivered to patients. - S

 19% of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone. Exercise, diet, and weight apps are the most popular types.

 From a recent study, 54% of patients are very comfortable with their providers seeking advice from online communities to better treat their conditions.

 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility.

 12% parents are more likely to seek medical answers online, 22% use Facebook and 20% use YouTube.

Of non-parents, 14% use Facebook and 12% use YouTube to search for health care related topics.

How to avoid becoming a social media addict- Few Tips You Can Try

• Keep track of how long you spend as time can quickly get away

• Don't have social media sites open in a web browser tab all the time, schedule their use instead

• Put limits on time spent on social media sites (e.g. 30 minutes a day or not after 9pm)

• Turn off email notifications for social media sites as they encourage more use

• Think before you text/tweet. Do people really need to know what you are having for lunch?

• Be careful not to replace face-to-face social events with virtual ones

• Have mobile phone or computer free days

• Identify activities enjoyed previously (before the rise of social media) and take these up again.

References

http://www.womhealth.org.au/healthy-lifestyle/109-health-risks-of-social-media

Boyd, D. and Ellison, N. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1),1-11. Retrieved from http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html

Bryant, http://www.womhealth.org.au/healthy-lifestyle/109-health-risks-of-social-media

Adolph, Martin. "Decreasing Driver Distraction." International Telecommunication Union. August 2010 http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2014/03/28/cellphone-use-1-in-4-car-crashes/7018505/

http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/dec/12/study-finds-social-media-skype-facebook-use-beneficial-overall-health-elderly https://www.thezebra.com/insurance-news/549/texting-and-driving/

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275361.php https://getreferralmd.com/2013/09/healthcare-social-media-statistics/