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Last Updated on March 16, 2021

10 Negative Effects of Social Media That Can Harm Your Life

10 Negative Effects of Social Media That Can Harm Your Life

Social media is, arguably, one of the most exciting developments in recent history. It helps families and friends stay connected, offers a useful tool to look back on positive memories, and even helps those who are struggling find support among strangers. However, while there are many benefits of social media, there are also many negative effects of social media that you need to be aware of.

The occasional post on Twitter or a few minutes scrolling through your Facebook feed can be a relaxing addition to your day. However, when you feel the need to post every ten minutes, check any and all updates during your break times at work, and feel that your life isn’t living up to those you see on your friends’ pages, it has become detrimental to your mental health.

As much as you may love your Instagram followers, is there adoration really worth the toll it takes on your mental and physical health? That’s for you to decide after you read about some of the negative effects of social media.

1. Reduces Face-to-Face Interaction

When you are on social media more often, not only do you spend less quality time with people who are physically present in your life, but they will quickly get annoyed when you’re mindlessly scrolling through social media platforms instead of paying attention to them.

Social media can be great for finding support when you aren’t able to interact face-to-face with those around you, but being physically present with someone offers a level of comfort and support that social media will never be able to rival.

When we speak with someone face-to-face, non-verbal cues are just as important as what we’re saying. On social media, non-verbal cues are eliminated, making communication more complicated and causing misunderstandings, even between the best of friends.

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The best thing you can do (when possible) is to put down your phone and go out with friends or family.

2. Increases Cravings for Attention

If you’re wondering why social media is bad, the cravings for attention it causes is one big reason. Posting vague statuses on Facebook to grab others attention could easily become a nasty habit for people who use social media frequently. The never ending competition for likes and notifications can consume you.

The need for the type of attention known as belonging is a natural human phenomenon. It developed as a way to survive in groups. According to Dr. Geoff MacDonald, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, “Attention is one of the most valuable resources in existence for social animals.” It ensures that we have a safe place to land if we ever need it.

Unfortunately, social media sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, have taken this need for attention to the extreme by allowing us to request attention at any given moment by posting updates and photos. Unfortunately, as MacDonald points out, “When you present a curated version of yourself to the world, any approval that you get is not for your full and whole self.”[1]

On social media, we are getting attention for being a constructed version of ourselves, not our genuine selves. This leaves us receiving lots of attention and yet feeling more lonely and isolated than before, creating many negative effects of social media in our lives.

3. Distracts From Life Goals

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on in social media that people will neglect their real life goals. Instead of aiming for the dream job by obtaining useful skills, people tend to strive for internet stardom.

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Achieving goals takes hard work and a good deal of motivation. Social media allows an easy outlet to distract us when we don’t feel like putting in the hard work, and we can end up going down a path where we simply don’t get things done because it becomes too easy to find a distraction.

If you find you’re having this particular problem, you can check out Lifehack’s Foolproof Guide to Reaching Goals This Year to get you back on track.

4. Can Lead to a Higher Risk of Depression

According to recent studies, the more people use social media, the more negative feelings they experience, including depression[2]. This could be particularly harmful to people who have been previously diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

It has been suggested that these negative feelings and depressive symptoms come from increased social comparisons and a lack of social interaction caused by spending more time on social media. If you’re beginning to notice that you’re feeling down on a regular basis, recognize that this is one of the negative effects of social media and that it’s probably time to take a break.

5. Relationships Are More Likely to Fail

No good comes out of online displays of jealousy and snooping. It may seem like an easy option when it comes to dealing with relationships, but in reality, it does more damage than good. In fact, studies show that the more a person uses Facebook, the more likely they will be to monitor their partner, which leads to arguments and crumbling relationships.[3]

If you genuinely value your relationship, stop constantly checking your Facebook, and plan a date night out—and maybe leave your phones at home.

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6. Stunts Creativity

I can speak from personal experience that social media is the easiest way to stunt, or even kill, the creative process. Surfing social media sites has a numbing effect on the mind that is similar to mindlessly watching television.

Creativity often requires intense focus or a relatively clear, relaxed mind. Social media gets in the way of both. If you’re looking for a creative solution to a problem, try going for a walk, meditating, or even discussing the problem with a friend. All of these will provide better results than taking to social media.

7. Encountering Cyberbullies

People feel too comfortable on the web and say things they wouldn’t normally say in real life. If you’re not the one saying horrible things, you’re still inevitably going to be exposed to it, which is one of the many negative effects of social media.

Cyberbullying, whether it’s directed at you or not, will lead to more negative thoughts and likely a more negative perspective on humanity as a whole. Getting out in the world and seeing the random acts of kindness that people offer in real life is the perfect antidote to this.

8. Social Comparison Reduces Self-Esteem

It’s easy to present a certain persona on social media. Many choose to post gorgeous vacation photos or a post about their new baby, but what you don’t see is all the messy stuff in between. As we only see the good stuff, it can lead to social comparison.

One study found that “participants who used Facebook most often had poorer trait self-esteem, and this was mediated by greater exposure to upward social comparisons on social media”[4]. What this means is that when we see others’ lives that we deem to be better than ours, our self-esteem goes down.

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If you’re still not clear on why social media is bad for mental health, the answer is that social media exacerbates the above problem by forcing us into constant social comparison, which will inevitably cause mental health problems and social anxiety, especially in young people.

9. Loss of Sleep

The light emitted from your various screens tricks your mind into thinking it’s not time for you to sleep, which can cause one of the most common negative effects of social media: sleep deprivation. Getting enough sleep each night is already difficult enough without extra complications.

One study on teenagers found that those “heavier social media use was associated with poorer sleep patterns”[5]. The same is often true for adults who come home, crash on the couch, and spend the rest of the evening surfing social media only to find that midnight has come and gone.

10. Lack of Privacy

Between social media websites saving (and selling) your personal data and the whole NSA mess involving unsolicited government access of personal data[6], including email, Skype calls, and so much more, it’s very clear that privacy and the internet don’t mix well.

More and more, employers are taking to social media to review potential hires’ pages. Posting each and every thought could lead them to develop a negative perception, causing you to lose out on opportunities.

The Bottom Line

When used correctly and sparingly, social media can be a great way to connect with others when face-to-face interactions are impossible. However, it’s important to know about the negative effects of social media and to limit the time you spend in the digital world in order to avoid getting lost there. Try cutting back on your online time, and get out into the world again.

More on Avoiding Social Media

Featured photo credit: Tim Mossholder via unsplash.com

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Published on April 8, 2021

10 Simple Ways To Refocus a Wandering Mind

10 Simple Ways To Refocus a Wandering Mind

Want to know what Steve Jobs thought was the ultimate key in achieving success?

“Focus and simplicity… once you get there, you can move mountains.”—Steve Jobs

And this belief is even more important today than it was years ago. At your fingertips is a literal world of information and entertainment. So, it’s no wonder we all have such wandering minds nowadays.

Thanks to the internet and smartphones, attention is practically a currency we should be more budget-minded about. In fact, a person who can stay focused is not only more likely to get more done but also be more satisfied at the end of the day because of it.

Going further, a person who’s focused will more easily achieve their goals—anything from losing 20 pounds to getting a promotion at work is within the reach of this type of person.

So, in the spirit of that idea, here are 10 ways to tame that wandering mind of yours and turn it into a laser-focused brain that gets things done.

1. Find Your Totem

Remember the totem in the movie, Inception? It’s an item that reminded people they weren’t in a dream when they touched it, and it was able to keep them grounded in reality.

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You can replicate this idea when it comes to staying focused as well. All you’ve to got to do is find something to be your “focus totem,” and it’ll remind you that you should stop daydreaming and get back to work. Ideally, it’s something you can see and touch.

In the movie, a chess piece and a spinning top were used—both are good ideas. You could also use a picture of your family, a mini trophy, or even wear a ring to focus your mind as well. (In fact, a green lantern ring might be kind of cool for this.)

2. Promise a Reward

Incentives are an obvious way to go. Having gold at the end of any journey makes you want to press forward just for the sweet results. In general, rewards should correlate to the difficulty/length of the work.

For example:

  • Finish a quick house chore = a piece of chocolate
  • Complete an annoying administrative task = 10 minutes of Youtube
  • A successful day of work = a whole movie on Netflix

Pretty simple stuff, right? But you’d be surprised how often you forget to reward yourself for doing solid work on the regular.

3. Make It Stupid Easy for Your Wandering Mind

I don’t know about you, but if I perceive my work to require more effort than I care to use, I’m instantly turned off. This then leads to distraction and procrastination. But you can offset this by breaking a difficult task into a bite-sized piece.

Case in point, what seems easier: 30 pushups or 3 pushups?

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It’s obvious, but sometimes our brains need to be “convinced” we’re only doing a small amount of work to get things going.

But here’s something cool about this tactic: You can (and most likely will) keep going past your stupid easy benchmark. You don’t have to, but my experience tells me once you get going like this, it’s easy to go beyond your bare minimum goal.

4. Empty Your Mind With Journaling

Sometimes, there’s too much stuff floating around in your brain that is making your mind wander. In that case, it can help to spill everything in your head onto a journal to free up some space. You can use a pen and pad for this or something digital like Evernote.

There are two basic ways to go about it:

  1. Freestyle – where you just write whatever randomly flows through your brain without thinking or pausing. This is great if you’ve got a million different ideas racing through your brain.
  2. Focused – where you create prompts or an outline to streamline your thinking and you just respond to the questions or format. This is best when you want to grasp a certain topic.

5. Use the “Just 5 Minutes” Method

Try telling yourself that you’ll work for “just 5 minutes” and then you can stop. You’ll find that the task feels far easier to handle. And like the “stupid easy” method, this tricks your brain into thinking the task is lower effort than it really is. After all, 5 minutes for even the worst task is psychologically manageable for any person out there.

The key is to honestly allow yourself to stop at 5 minutes—no matter what. That’s what allows your brain to accept the method as legit and also lets it overcome the mental hurdle that makes your brain want to wander around and focus on anything but your task.

6. Recite a Focus Mantra

I like to think of mantras as a totem you can take with you anywhere you go. They serve the same purpose—reminding you to stay focused—but can be done anywhere and anytime.

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I find the most powerful type of mantra to be based on reality. I learned this approach from Dr. Jon Fader—a performance coach who was on “Good Morning America”—and his book Life as Sport: What Top Athletes Can Teach You about How to Win in Life. He calls this “objective optimism.”

Basically, you create a mantra that’s based on personal success in your life. That way, the mantra isn’t just a fluffy positivity statement, there’s also the weight of real-life success giving it power

Some examples:

  • If you’re struggling to make yourself go to the gym but have technically been there many times already, you could say, “just another day of heading to the gym—easy.”
  • If you’re suffering from impostor-syndrome after accepting a promotion, just say, “I’m here for a reason” to remind yourself that your efforts were recognized by others and are the real deal.
  • If you’re nervous about an upcoming sports competition but have trained diligently for it, you could say, “I’ve done all the work possible” to remind yourself that your earlier efforts have created the best version of you for the event.

As you can see, the most powerful mantras are evidence-based and positive. So, just find proof of relevant success in your life and transform it into a motivating mantra.

7. Use the “Multi-Yawn” Approach

One of the best ways to be distracted is to be tired. And sometimes, you’ll be tired in such a way that you’re “sort of” working but not realize that you’re actually constantly distracted.

If you can notice when you do this, one thing I like to do is crank out as many big, satisfying yawns as possible. Olympic athletes sometimes do this before their big events. It calms them down and helps them perform better in the process. And it works just as well for us regular folks. I find it has a similar effect to taking a good nap (and actually works best in unison), so you can imagine how effective this can be.

8. Find an Easy Win

Nothing feels good like winning. So, it can help to find a few simple tasks you can do with little effort and just get them done immediately. This will create momentum and propel your productivity forward. The feeling of success will lock your focus in on the task at hand and refocus your wandering mind. Use this when you feel “resistance” to getting your work started.

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9. Create a “Wins” List

Feeling like a capable person who can win at life is motivating in and of itself. In light of this fact, it can help to have an ongoing “wins” list to prove you’re an able person.

Just keep track of all your daily wins—big and small. And whenever your focus starts to wane, give that list a peek and remind yourself that you’re more capable than you realize.

10. Add Stakes to the Mix

If you were to lose $20 if you failed to complete a task, would you be more focused on completing it? Of course!

Try and find ways to put something on the line when it comes to completing your tasks, and you’ll find your focus, motivation, and ability to things done to be higher than ever before.

For example, if you’re at work, you could involve a co-worker by saying you’ll buy their food if you don’t complete a task before lunchtime rolls around. At home, you could say you’ll also mow the lawn if you don’t remember to wash the dishes before the day is over. Or you could just use something like Beeminder or TaskRatchet, which actually charges you cash for failing to complete a task or goal on time. (It’s scary but effective)

All are viable methods, so just give one of them a shot.

Who Else Wants More Success?

Of the many methods of winning at life out there, focusing is definitely a top-three contender. You can’t get anything you want in life if you don’t buckle down and get your work done—a wandering mind won’t create success.

But with these 10 focus tips, you’ll be ahead of the competition and be closer to a fitter body, higher income, and a flat-out better life than before.

More Tips on Sharpening Your Focus

Featured photo credit: Clay Banks via unsplash.com

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