Is Social Media Damaging Your Brain?

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We are living in both an exciting and a scary time in history.

The technology and social connections we are apart of allow us access to more information than we know what to do with.

On one hand, this is brilliant- we can become educated to take control of our health, finances, and personal growth. For the first time in history, anything we could ever want to learn about is right at our finger tips. What used to take years to learn- from school, from books, and from people, can be done in a fraction of the time.

However, there is a dark side that we must become aware of if we wish to gain the benefits of the cyber world, without the damage.

What Social Media Does to The Brain

We are living in a world where we are over stimulated on just about every level possible. We scroll through social media, have a netflix binges, watch action movies, dramatic TV shows, and eat and drink sugar filled goods – which all produce large amounts of dopamine, so these things feel great. When we are stressed or bored- our mind searches out for something that will increase those feel good hormones- so you feel urge to go check facebook.

Unfortunately, these things are highly addictive. Like a drug, the more we do these activities, the more we build up tolerance and need more.

Also, whether we like it or not- everything we are allowing in through our five senses is physically getting wired into our brain. Our brains are constantly changing and being transformed by our experiences and what we see, hear, and feel.
Example: When you sit and watch a movie, your brain is changing according to the images you see and the emotions you feel. Your brain is structurally different after that movie than it was before. (Makes you think twice about what you are watching.)

Knowing this, it is more important than ever that who you are following is sending you information that is inspiring, positive, and life giving- because it is effecting our body, mind, and behavior more than we can even understand. (So stop watching the news. 😉 )

A few other thoughts. . .

  • When we turn to our iPhones first thing in the morning, we are programming our brain to crave that the rest of the day.
  • When we turn to play a game on our phone, search social media, or watch TV every time we are bored, sad, uncomfortable, or even happy- we are training our brain that this is what is needs to do to get relief and pleasure so we do it more and more often as it is becoming wired into the biology of our brain.
  • The constant flow of new posts, tweets, and instagram photos is creating chaos within our brain chemicals. Every rapid, incomplete, and poor quality shift of thought is like making a milkshake with your brain cells.
  • Because of this, we create an addiction to looking for the next information high. A study out of Norway developed a tool to measure facebook addiction, and it showed that multitasking social media can be as addicting as drugs, alcohol, and chemical substance abuse.
  • Anything  you do over and over again creates a habit, and something you begin to do unconsciously. Just being aware of this can make the biggest difference.
  • We do not want to lose the ability to be still- without any stimulation at all. It is in these still moments we hear from God, get creative insights, and create our future.

Finding Your Balance

Although those are some frightening thoughts, this does not mean we need to go delete all of our accounts immediately, it is simply  about finding balance. We need to add in other outlets we go to receive pleasure. This struck me as I began to notice my own addictive habits. When any feeling I did not want to feel came up, I found myself reaching for my phone. When the day had moments to fill, tasks to be procrastinated, I reached for my phone. In the morning hours, I reached for my phone. When I finally realized how often I was doing this- I decided to make a few changes:

  1. I balanced heavy stimulation with little stimulation: When I did have a day of high amount of information and social media time- I took an equal amount of time outside, in quiet, and reading.
  2. I picked up new outlets that gave me pleasure and a mood boost: walking, pilates, writing, dancing, creating programs (coming soon! 😉 ) praying and creating future goals.
  3. I do not look at social media or email first thing in the morning. (most of the time ;))
  4. I stopped multitasking! I focused intensely on one thing at a time- I was BLOWN AWAY with how much more I got done every single day!
  5. I spent at least 1 hour of quiet time a day (prayer, Bible, meditation)
  6. I (try!) to turn off all stimulation at 9. This one is still a work in progress for sure.
  7. I take 1 day a week with no technology and little stimulation.

These things allowed me to break the cycle of my brain turning to technology for a mood boost. When I felt any uncomfortable emotion- I meditate, go for a walk, or write instead ( not all the time!) but definitely more than  I used to.

Do not get me wrong- I still love social media, and use it often- while at the same time balancing it out with productive activities and low stimulation to keep brain, hormones, and spirit in balance.

 

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