To reduce the anxiety that some young people are experiencing around the feedback that their posts receive on social media, Instagram has elected to hide the number of “likes” a post gets to all but the poster. According to research out of the UK (1), social media and Instagram in particular have been linked to increased levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, bullying and FOMO (fear of missing out) among young people. While controversial, these recent changes at Instagram give rise to concerns about cell phone use in general.
Since a recent study indicated that 95% of Americans now own a cell phone, these concerns seem to be valid (2). An article from CNN Health recently reported an uptick of people who have the fear of not being able to use their cell phones or smart devices and have coined the new phrase NOMOPHOBIA (NO MObile PHOne PHObia). But cell phone dependence or addiction differs from the concerns voiced by Instagram regarding the use of social media. Cell phone addiction does seem to have physical and emotional ramifications.
Additionally, compulsive cell phone use can impact relationships, memory, attention span, and distractedness. Known as “text-neck”, constantly looking down at your phone can result in cramping and stabbing neck pain. Being plugged in to a smart device 24/7 is shown to increase stress and decrease attention, causing users to be more distracted. This distraction is most harmful in the case of texting while driving. Fifty-nine percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 admit to texting while behind the wheel, resulting in over 1000 injuries or deaths each day (2).
However, the findings which relate social media use to poor mental health are not as conclusive. Research indicates that when social media is used as a means of negative social comparison, or to cyber bully, the mental health impact can be negative. But, normal social media (interacting with others through online electronic forums such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, etc.) is not in itself harmful. Positive posting including an authentic self—presentation has been shown to increase subjective feelings of well-being (3).
The bottom line is that smart-phone use should not replace actual relationships with friends and families. Protect your (and others) physical well-being by not texting while driving, and controlling the amount of time you spend looking at your phone (if your neck hurts…..look up). And if you notice a decrease in your memory or attention span, give your brain some down-time to rest (4).
1. Royal Society for Public Health. (2017). #StatusOfMind. Retrieved from: https://www.rsph.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/d125b27c-0b62-41c5-a2c0155a8887cd01.pdf
2. Lamotte, S. (Nov. 2017). Smartphone addiction could be changing your brain. CNN Wire Service. Retrieved from: https://www.cnn.com/2017/11/30/health/smartphone-addiction-study/index.html
3. Berry, N., Emsley, R., Lobban, F., & Bucci, S. (2018). Social media and its relationship with mood, self‐esteem and paranoia in psychosis. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 138(6).
4. Scudamore, B (2018). The truth about smartphone addiction, and how to beat it. Forbes.com. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianscudamore/2018/10/30/the-truth-about-smartphone-addiction-and-how-to-beat-it/#f10558e4232c