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Is Social Media Affecting Our Lives?

Over the last few decades the popularity of the Internet has increased greatly and a big contributing factor has been the introduction of social networking sites or platforms. These platforms enable individuals with no HTML expertise to create micro-sites or personal pages, allowing them to easily express themselves, connect with friends and families and by joining various groups also connect with hopefully other like-minded people. News and other organisations offered social media pages and allowed feedback, keeping their visitors informed and connected and to feel a part of the organisation.

Further social media platforms have been created more recently based on users uploading photographs and videos and incorporating comments and feedback. These have proven to be even more popular, and possibly addictive, than the previous social media platforms.

As at January 2020, the number of people around the world using the Internet has grown to 4.54 billion, and about 3.8 billion people are on social media; it is expected that more than half of the world’s population will be using social media by the middle of 2020.

While social media has connected the world more than ever before,  giving voice to the previously voiceless and arming individuals with mediums to express themselves on issues that interest them, our reliance and excessive use of these platforms may have detrimental effects on our general well-being.

Photo Credit: Vivian Otika

According to a study conducted on the correlation between social media use and sleep disturbance in young adults, by assessing 1788 U.S young adults between the ages of 19-38, more than half of the participants reported medium to high levels of sleep disturbance. The research suggests that there is a consistent, substantial  and progressive association between social media use and sleep disturbance.

To maintain a healthy life, sleep is essential. Lack of sleep or reduced quality of sleep is a contributor to poor health. Not getting enough sleep does not only make one grumpy and tired, it puts one at risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and shortens one’s life expectancy.

Social media use may directly displace sleep if an individual, for example, stays up late, posting, viewing and liking pictures on Instagram, Facebook, his or her sleep time will be reduced. Engaging in an emotional, physiological or cognitive activity such as watching a movie, having a discussion in a group chat or with someone, or making a video call may also distort sleep pattern.

Again, recent findings suggest that exposure to blue light such as from a computer, tablet or smartphone screen before sleep may distort the natural (circadian) rhythm, further disrupting normal sleep patterns.

Whilst many people use social media sites to socialise, keep in touch with friends and families, relieve themselves of pressure from daily activities, work pressure or emotional trauma, and enhance self-esteem,  some studies suggest that social media use on the other hand might lead to unhealthy mental state such as anxiety, low-self esteem, and symptoms of depression.

Checking and scrolling through social media is seen as the new norm; however psychologists are concerned a small percentage of the social media users have become addicted to social media networking platforms as they now engage in excessive and compulsive use of the sites. This they described as a form of addiction characterised by an uncontrollable urge to use social media that is affecting other aspects of their lives.

Today we visited Saratu Yakubu, an Addiction Expert, to tell us about social media addiction, what it is like, and the possible treatment for it.  Click here to watch the interview


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