How Can Social Media Affect Your Health?

At first glance, it may seem like a surprising notion that social media can affect your health. When we consider how much time people spend engaging on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others, however, it really makes sense.

Anything that takes up large amounts of your time, including work, watching TV, exercising or driving, has some impact on your health. The question is whether social media is good or bad for us. The simple answer is that it can be both. Fortunately, there are ways to help reduce its harmful effects while maximizing the benefits.

Ways That Social Media Impacts Your Health

There are a number of ways that social media can have an influence on your health.

  • Addiction to social media. People who are addicted to social media may experience negative side effects such as eye strain, social withdrawal or lack of sleep.
  • Stress. If you spend your time researching problems or arguing with people, you may experience stress, which can have a negative impact on your health.
  • Emotional connections. Social media can help you connect with more people and stay in touch with those with whom you’re already close. Connecting with people has proven health benefits.
  • Information. You can find a large amount of health-related information on social media. This can be quite helpful. On the other hand, if you take random advice without doing proper research, it can also be harmful.

As these points illustrate, there’s no simple answer to whether social media is good or bad for you. Because it’s such a pervasive influence on modern life, it has many positive and negative effects. Let’s look at some of these in a little more detail.

Social Media Addiction

Social media addiction is a real phenomenon. As more people carry around smartphones and other devices wherever they go, it becomes harder to escape the internet. And people increasingly spend their online time on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

For people who are addicted to these sites, it can have a harmful effect on their lives and even their health. Any addiction is potentially harmful if it saps your energy away from other activities, such as work, physical activity and offline relationships. There are various ways that social media addiction harms your mental health.

Emotional Impact

People use social media for many things, such as socializing, finding and sharing information, shopping and simply as a diversion. Some of these activities are fairly neutral while others may cause strong emotions.

Positive connections with people are important for your mental and even physical health. There’s plenty of evidence that social isolation is associated with a shorter life span, not to mention a diminished quality of life. While interacting with people on social media is not enough, and not a substitute for live interactions, it can be beneficial nonetheless.

Seniors and those who are disabled, who may have limited mobility, can use social media to connect in ways that they otherwise could not. Elderly people can talk to their grandkids. Someone stationed overseas in the military can talk to his or her spouse back home. Friends who live in different states can chat online. These are just a few of the ways that social media can improve people’s lives.

On the other hand, social media can cause stress and other negative emotions. The issue of cyber-bullying is a good example of this. There are also people who are attached to trolling or arguing about everything from politics to sports. If interacting on social media causes stress, it’s not good for your health.

Impact on Physical Health

Social media can directly impact physical health. This is usually associated with the way you use it. For example:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If you do too much keying, you may experience problems that affect your hands or wrists. There are also specific problems associated with keying on mobile phones, which can strain the tendons of your fingers. These problems aren’t all caused by social media. It can just as easily be caused by having to type term papers for school or reports at work.
  • Eye problems. You can get eyestrain from staring at screens for too long.
  • Fatigue. This is another symptom of overusing social media. If you’re staying up too late posting on Twitter of Facebook, you may be losing valuable sleep.
  • Lack of exercise. Social media can cut into time you might otherwise be spending outdoors or exercising.
  • Distraction. One of the most dangerous potential consequences of social media addiction is driving while being distracted. As recent stories have confirmed, you can even get hurt texting and walking.

The above are harmful effects that aren’t caused by social media per se, but by overdoing it or being online or texting while you should be concentrating on something else. Some of these, of course, also apply to activities other than social media, such as texting on the phone, writing emails or browsing internet sites.

Accessing Health Information

There are innumerable places to get health information online. If you’re active on Facebook, you probably have friends who post their favorite health advice. You may subscribe to the pages or tweets of celebrity doctors or people who have created diets. You could learn about a potential therapy, cure or drug that’s truly helpful for you or someone you care about.

On the other hand, if you accept everything you see on social media uncritically, you could end up taking bad advice. You should never mistake a tweet or Facebook post as expert opinion. Even if it’s given by a qualified expert, that person hasn’t examined you. At most, you should use social media as the first stage of your research.

Staying Healthy on Social Media

When used consciously and in moderation, social media can have a positive impact on your life and even your health. Here are some general tips to keep in mind.

  • Use social media at certain scheduled times. Don’t let it interfere with your work, studies or offline relationships.
  • If you have difficulty getting off social media, try productivity apps that limit your access to certain sites. If you have a serious addiction problem, seek professional help.
  • Use social media to research health issues, but always consult with your own doctor before taking any advice.
  • Stay off social media and any communications platforms while driving or doing anything else that’s potentially hazardous.
  • Stay positive. Don’t waste time arguing with people online.

How Social Media Affects Politics

The political landscape has changed quite a bit in the last couple of decades. The internet has played a large role in this transformation. Social media, in particular, is now a serious factor in political campaigns and in the way people think about issues.

Candidates and their supporters constantly post their views on Facebook and Twitter. Each party has its own pages, from which it broadcasts propaganda and requests for donations. Let’s look at some of the leading ways that social media influences politics today.

News Around the Clock

One of the ways that social media has transformed politics is the sheer speed at which news, poll results and rumors are shared. Whereas in the pre-internet days, people had to wait for the next newspaper or TV news show to get the latest information, online news is a 24/7 phenomenon.

Social media has taken this a step further. While you can access news on many websites at any hour, most people spend more time on sites such as Facebook and Twitter than they do on serious news or political websites. This means that you get all of the latest trending news stories and opinions shared by your friends whenever you log on.

The Impact of Polls

Political polls are an important part of every campaign. They are often confusing, because you can often find multiple polls with contradictory results posted on the very same day.

As with other types of political news, the internet has greatly increased the number of poll results we see each day. Social media has accelerated this even more. Not only do social media sites report the results of polls, you can actually participate in Facebook polls.

Polls results have a big influence on elections. This is true even if they are flawed. A poll can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if people think one candidate is far ahead in the race, they might conclude there’s no point in voting for the underdog. When people are posting the latest poll results on social media throughout the day, there’s a great deal of pressure on candidates to pull ahead of their opponents.

Direct Interaction With Politicians

One of the positive effects that social media has on politics is the opportunity for voters to interact more easily with candidates and elected officials. Traditionally, if you wanted to meet a politician or candidate, you’d have to attend a live event. Not everyone is able to do this. With modern technology, it’s now possible to attend virtual events where you can participate in live streaming events and interact with politicians and candidates.

Demographics and Targeting

Targeting is used throughout the advertising industry to make sure that ads and messages reach the right audience. Politicians do this as well. In the age of social media, politicians and people running for office are able to target their campaigns.

If a candidate wants to address the concerns of women, college students, retired people, Latinos or any other group of voters, they can now tailor their messages. Just as advertisers on Facebook are able to use analytics and targeted advertising, so can candidates and politicians. Thus, if you notice that political messages seem to be talking to you personally, this is no accident.

Rumors, Fake News and Conspiracies

Political campaigns are now influenced by every story, whether true or not, that gets spread around social media. It’s getting more and more difficult to separate actual news from fake news online. Social media makes this distinction especially confusing. The constant stream of memes, links and rumors about political leaders and candidates is a mixture of truth, lies, satire and speculation.

There are now quite a few fake or satirical “news” sites that often post stories that sound authentic. The Onion is the best known of these, but there are now many others as well. Some fake news sites are not even amusing but simply exist to post clickbait stories or to troll readers who don’t do their own research.

There are also sites with political biases or those peddling various unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. It’s easy to be influenced by misinformation posted by your friends and followers, even if they don’t intend to mislead you. It’s therefore necessary to use a great deal of discernment before believing anything.

The Power of Confirmation Bias

One of the hidden forces that operates on social media is confirmation bias. This is especially powerful when it comes to controversial topics, including politics. If you’re like most people, the majority of your friends and followers on social media probably share your outlook. This means that the vast majority of tweets, Facebook posts, pins or other content you read on these sites tend to express the same point of view, one that you already hold.

It’s natural for people to surround themselves with others of like mind. This is true both online and offline. On social media sites, this can create the illusion that “everybody” thinks the same way. If you have a few hundred friends on Facebook, for example, and 90 percent of them agree on most political issues, the information you get will be filtered through this bias. People will post links to stories that confirm your existing bias. They’ll repeat opinions you already hold.

For this reason, social media may reinforce our opinions and make it more difficult to entertain alternative points of view. In politics, it can help to make people more opinionated and less tolerant of others. On the other hand, if you make an effort to connect with an assortment of people with diverse viewpoints, you can overcome confirmation bias and use social media to make you more open-minded.

Social Media and the Future of Politics

Because social media is relatively new, we’re just starting to see its impact on society. There are sure to be many political changes that come about due to social media. There are now proposals for internet voting, which could lead to more people participating in elections. This could make social media even more influential, as people could literally vote moments after reading the latest comments or links they found on Facebook or Twitter.

Other advancements will also change politics. Polling techniques on social media will become more common and, hopefully, more accurate. More virtual political rallies and town halls will take place. As social media becomes ever more popular, its impact on politics will only increase over time. It will be interesting to observe how this plays out.

If you’re looking to have a powerful search platform at your fingertips during the election season, that gives an unlimited number of ad-hoc searches on billions of social conversations, then you should see the power of Sysomos Search.

Social Media Recap: October 2016

NPR Shows Us How to Tweet Like a Human

Often PR pros become distracted by their quest for perfection on social media, worried that the slightest slip can create havoc for their clients. In some cases, that is true (the list of social media offenses that have lead to someone getting fired is quite long). However, it is possible to make simple mistakes and then correct them in real time, in a human way that enhances your brand. Today’s lesson in how to be human on social media comes from Twitter via NPR.

Pro-tip: This is how you handle a spelling error on a site that has no edit button: 

Facebook Brings Ads to Groups

The second noteworthy update this month is the one that gets the most groans from users of social media, but may be useful for PR pros who need to promote live events and other hands-on brand news. Facebook is deploying ads in Facebook groups. This change in policy may be a game changer for PR pros, since it will allow highly targeted marketing to subsets of Facebook users already highly engaged on a topic.

How might this play out? Instead of advertising a new product or event in the news feed, as it’s done currently, you could choose a group focused on a specified topic and place your ad there. For example, a group dedicated to data analytics and ROI would be a perfect place to show an ad for an analytics conference. Additionally, the ads will target by topics, keywords, and identity. This will help PR pros avoid wasting money on groups where the target audience is the wrong demographic and land in groups where people are more focused on buying, selling, trading, and learning.

Pro tip: When you can place content into groups as ads, keep the user top of mind. Since most users are likely to find this invasive, it will be more important than ever to be first useful or funny. Keep your ad strategy all about bringing something to the group that adds to their overall knowledge, experience, and sense of place.

Overall, the two big takeaways from this month’s social media recap are:

  1. Be human first on social media
  2. Be useful and keep the user top of mind when placing PR

Social Sidekick 11/13-11/19

Can you say “a quick-witted cricket critic” 10 times fast? You better practice, because World Tongue Twister Day is the second Sunday in November. And that’s not the only thing that’s going to be in knots. Between Spicy Guacamole Day, Fast Food Day, and Peanut Butter Month, you need to remember to take your Tums this week.

Subscribe to get Social Sidekick straight into to your inbox so you won’t even need to get up off the couch as you Netflix and chill.


American Diabetes Month, Good Nutrition Month


Peanut Butter Lover’s Month, World Vegan Month, Georgia Pecan Month, National Pepper Month, National Pomegranate Month, Raisin Bread Month


National Novel Writing Month

Sunday, November 13

World Kindness Day, Tongue Twister Day


#SundayFunday, #SelfieSunday, #Sinday


Jimmy Kimmel, Whoopi Goldberg, Gerard Butler, Robert Louis Stevenson, Chris Noth, Steve Zahn


Clash of the Grandmas (Food, 10 PM)


Tuesday, November 15

Entrepreneurs’ Day, Philanthropy Day, I Love to Write, Clean Out Your Fridge Day


#TransformationTuesday or #TT, #TravelTuesday, #TongueOutTuesday, #Tunesday


Shailene Woodley, Lily Aldridge, B.o.B., Randy Savage


The Curse of Oak Island (History, 9 PM), Good Behavior (TNT, 9 PM), Moonshiners (Discovery, 9 PM), Outdaughtered (TLC, 9 PM), Hunting Hitler (History, 10 PM), David Blaine: Beyond Magic (ABC 10 PM), Shooter (USA, 10 PM), Billy on the Street (truTV, 10:30 PM)


Wednesday, November 16

Fast Food Day, Button Day


#WomanCrushWednesday or #WCW, #WayBackWednesday or #WBW, #WineWednesday, #WellnessWednesday, #HumpDay, #WisdomWednesday


Gemma Atkinson, Brooke Elliot, Missi Pyle, Barbara Payton


Total Divas (E!, 8 PM), Undercover (BBC America, 8 PM), Wahlburgers (A&E, 10 PM)


Thursday, November 17

Take a Hike Day, Beaujolais Nouveau Day, Unfriend Day, Use Less Stuff Day, Homemade Bread Day, Petroleum Day


#TBT or #ThrowbackThursday, #Thursdate, #ThoughtfulThursday, #ThirstyThursday, #ThankfulThursday


Rachel McAdams, RuPaul, Danny DeVito, Rock Hudson, Jeff Buckley


Bruno Mars, “24K Magic”; Justice, “Woman”, Metallica, “Hardwired…To Self-Destruct”, Miranda Lambert, “The Weight of These Wings”; Thee Oh Sees, “An Odd Entrances”; Title Tracks, “Long Dream”


Lovesick (Netflix)


Friday, November 18

Mickey Mouse Day, Housing Day, GIS Day


#FollowFriday or #FF, #FlashbackFriday or #FBF, #FridayFeeling, #FriYay, #FridayReads


Owen Wilson, David Ortiz, Damon Wayans Jr, Chloe Sevigny, Nasim Pedrad


Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs (PBS 9 PM), Beat Bugs (Netflix), Colin Quinn: The New York Story (Netflix), Divines (Netflix)


Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Friend Request, The Edge of Seventeen, Bleed For This


Saturday, November 19

International Men’s Day, International Toilet Day, Have a Bad Day Day, Carbonated Beverage With Caffeine Day


#Caturday, #SexySaturday


Jodie Foster, Allison Janney, Meg Ryan, Adam Driver, Tyga, Larry King, Stephen Meek, Ted Turner, Jack Dorsey, James Garfield


Getting the 6 Elements of Persuasion Right

Content that persuades a prospect to take additional action has six distinctive characteristics. It’s no surprise that these features are common to the marketing process and your customer’s journey:

1. Liking

Consumers and businesses alike wish to work with organizations that they admire. Social media demands that we become more transparent in our engagement with our audience or community. To be liked requires revealing details about ourselves beyond our product, logo, or slogan.

2. Reciprocity

The reasons we ask key industry experts (influencers) to work with us on webinars and ebooks isn’t as simple as providing unique and valued content; it’s also that many of those experts reciprocate the opportunity. Those experts often promote the content or introduce us to audiences that may be interested in our product offerings.

3. Consensus

The currency of content isn’t money; it’s trust. As you build trust online, you drive more sales. Mass adoption of strategies happens with consensus. If many in your network utilize PayPal, for example, you’ll most likely be using PayPal. It’s not so much that people wish to be part of the herd, it’s that the risk of going alone may be too high for many.

4. Scarcity

Time constraints, expiring discounts, remaining seats, and contests are all strategies that persuade the audience to move from the current moment to the next. Push too hard, and you can turn off your audience, but be strategic, and you can accelerate the customer journey.

5. Consistency

A percentage of the population wants consistency, even when it no longer serves them. To access this element of persuasion, meet your customers’ expectations. Expectations that you set at the beginning of the relationship. If changes to the customer experience occur, outline when and why those changes need to take place and how the end product, the consistent expectation will remain the same. That the customers can rely on you for a consistent (or possibly improved), end product.

6. Authority

Content that’s shared helps the author or company that’s published it gain recognition in their industry. Industries all have few leaders and plenty of followers. The perception of authority on a topic is a proven characteristic of persuasive content. Authority doesn’t happen overnight, though. Authority is attained over time. Authority requires momentum as the most recent, frequent, and relevant content you’ve produced is shared and recognized.

These six elements of persuasion are from the free ebook, How to Map Your Content to Unpredictable Customer Journeys, download to gain deeper insights into creating content that meets your customer at every point along their journey.

Screen Shot 2016-10-24 at 11.42.54 AM.png