Unfollow – 3 Ways Social Media Might Be Causing You Harm

Unfollow - 3 Ways Social Media Might Be Causing You Harm

In 2014, there was a brilliant esurance commercial featuring three elderly ladies. One had gone on vacation and tacked vacation photos to her living room wall. One friend was admiring the photos while the other had a bemused look on her face.

The elderly vacationer thought she was doing Facebook by posting photos and getting friend reactions. After a brief spat with the bemused friend, she declared, I unfriend you! Exasperated, the bemused lady finally stands up and says, That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works!

While the message about car insurance was meaningless and quickly forgotten, the message about social media continues to resonate over the years. I believe the bemused friend was wrong. That is how it works, or at least, how it should work. If we could externalize social media in that way, we would more clearly see the potential pitfalls of doing it the way we have become accustomed.

Sometimes, unfriending and unfollowing is the best thing you can do. Too much social media can have devastating effects on a person’s mental state. It can even lead to death. Here are just a few of the reasons why you might want to take a second look at the unfollow button:

Depression and Anxiety

On the most basic level, social media is a medium that surfaces the worst news and the worst of humanity. There are consequences to subjecting oneself to a steady diet of it. Depression and anxiety are often gateways to other conditions such as drug and alcohol dependency.

The Palm Beach rehabilitation center is one of the West Coast facilities that specializes in treating depression and anxiety, especially as it relates to drug and alcohol dependency.

Research has established a link between anxiety and social media. It is not just a result of depressing news and images. It can also be from the overload of happy and positive images. It makes it appear that everyone is having a better life and an easier time of it than you.

Part of the solution is pulling back from social media and regaining a better perspective on what is really happening in the world. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, the unfriend button may well be your best friend.

Friend Overload

There is a strong possibility that you are spreading yourself too thin. If you don’t have time for friends, family, special events, and other important relationships, you may be trying too hard to please too many people too much of the time.

We have known about the Dunbar number for some time. It suggests that we are limited to about 150 meaningful relationships. But recently, Dunbar has expanded his research to include the quality of those relationships. Your inner-circle should contain no more than 5.

Pew Research reveals the average Facebook friend list is 338 people. Even for casual relationships, that’s way too many. Younger people have friend lists exceeding 500. Dunbar suggests that the size of our brains is a limiting factor for accommodating that number of friends. Trying to maintain too many friendships can lead to social meltdown.

Fake News

Lately, fake news has been in the headlines. One of the biggest vectors for fake news is social media. Some put the average number of Twitter followers per user at 208. Dunbar’s number suggests that we should have far fewer.

By cutting the fat from our social media, we will decrease the chances of getting our feeds filled with fake news stories. Presuming your true friends aren’t the fools propagating fake news, you will have an immediate benefit in limiting your feed to your real friends and people you know well enough to respect.

Social media is a fact of life. Whether it is vacation photos on your living room wall, or comments from a stranger somewhere in the interweb, we are going to participate in social media.

But we have to learn when to pull the plug, unfriend, and unfollow. Depression and anxiety are too real. Our lizard brains are too small. And our ability to sort fact from fiction is too tenuous to let our friend and follow numbers rise above our ability to handle them.

Editorial Team
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