digital wellness
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If you’re reading this, chances are that around the year you were born, the latest in mobile technology was a Nokia 5190. Make calls! Send texts! Play Snake! What more could you want? And AOL Instant Messenger was the cutting edge way to catch up with friends, share vague but meaningful song lyrics, or send a custom ‘smiley’ to a crush before emoji were a thing.

Since then, things have changed a bit. If you’re in your twenties, you spend half — or more — of your day online. You check your phone over 150 times a day, and use the Internet for everything from ordering lunch to learning a new language to tracking your workout to streaming the news to submitting your final paper to keeping up with friends to planning meetups with your study group to finding a date for Thursday night.

Technology is amazing. It’s made possible incredible advances in communications, medicine, architecture, business, transportation and safety. It has asked and answered new questions about access and opportunity, elevated new perspectives, closed distances between friends.

The technologies that have transformed our daily lives also present some serious risk factors that can keep you from making the most of your experience at college. In a world that feels like it’s constantly ‘on’, it’s no surprise that college students navigating the demands of life on campus and online are more likely to experience fatigue, anxiety, stress and depression.

Studies show that they feel more pressure than ever to be academically and socially successful, to have an Instagram-worthy vacation/dinner/body/Tuesday, to be constantly connected and available to friends, parents and bosses. Depending on how much time you spend online, whether on social media, browsing comments, checking your device or studying, you might also be at risk of other health problems, hacking, harassment — or worse.

Social Media & Body Image

If you’ve ever walked away from time on social media feeling more flawed, less interesting, or less well-liked than your peers, you’re far from alone.

According to Psychology Today, when looking at social media, it’s easy to forget that a lot of thought has gone into curating one’s identity, which can be a set up for negative self-comparison. While most of us have come to expect that pictures of famous people — celebrities, athletes, models — have been digitally touched-up, it’s easy to forget that friends and acquaintances have access to some of those same tools. This can leave us vulnerable to physical comparisons and primed to feel inadequate or unhappy.

7 in 10 college women and more than 5 in 10 college men who post photos on social media admit to touching them up first. Nearly half who edit pictures of themselves enhance their looks by removing blemishes or adding color to look less pale. Approximately 1 in 8 admit to editing because they aren’t happy with how they look in general, while about 9% edit to make themselves look thinner.

Those who more frequently edit photos of themselves before posting report greater degrees of body dissatisfaction, eating concerns, and dieting behaviors.

In 2016, a study of 50 “fitspiration” websites revealed messaging that was often indistinguishable from pro-anorexia or “thinspiration” sites. The strong language both types of sites used was shown to induce guilt about weight or the body, and promote dieting, restraint, and the stigmatization of all but a narrow range of body types.

And of course, comparisons aren’t limited to attractiveness. As the New York Times noted earlier this year, while we know that “everybody else can’t possibly be as successful, rich, attractive, relaxed, intellectual and joyous as they appear to be on Facebook,” our friends’ posts tell another story. It’s hard to resist the pull of accounts that seem so believable, but don’t let social media make you miserable.

When you are struggling with balancing exams, hobbies and a social life, it seems like everyone else is #Blessed, able to #LiveAuthentic and find more #Fitspiration than the rest of us. But the truth is, the data suggest that they’re probably struggling too. This article has more on digital health.

Social Media & Your Mood

Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes or alchohol. So what does it do to your mood? Here’s what the research tells us.

While using social networks helps many people feel more connected to peers, more free in their self-expression, and more aware of others’ experiences, others experience intense envy and may have greater struggles with depression, low self-worth and other mental health challenges.

  • Research has found a direct link between social media use and mood disorders like anxiety and depression, but acknowledges that the relationship is complex and bi-directional.
  • Increasing amounts of Facebook use among first-year college students have been associated with higher levels of loneliness.
  • With 90% of college-aged students comparing themselves with peers within 15 minutes of waking up, social media sites set many people up for negative self perception before they even get out of bed.
  • In a survey of 1,500 young adults on the impact of social media on issues such as anxiety, depression, self-identity and body image, YouTube was found to have the most positive impact, while Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter all demonstrated negative effects overall on young people’s mental health.

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editor@thirdagewellness.com