Seniors: Is Social Media Dangerous for Your Health? Here’s What You Need to Know

social media, seniors, negative effects of social media, social networking, pros and cons of social media, social media

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With more seniors on social media, researchers are looking into how social media is affecting senior health. A study by the Pew Research Center found that 62 percent of online seniors are on Facebook. While social media platforms can be a great way to connect with friends and family, there are also precarious pitfalls to social media for seniors. What are the negative effects of social media?

Benefits and pitfalls of social media for seniors

The studies are contradictory on seniors and social media. While studies show that social media increases depression in younger users, it is the opposite for older users. One study showed that internet use can reduce depression in seniors by 33 percent. Another showed that Facebook can improve cognitive function in older adults. 

For many older adults, social media is a welcome way to connect with loved ones, especially during a pandemic. Seniors can share photos, connect with grandchildren, and play games.  

Larry Meigs, CEO, and President of Visiting Angels said, “There are obvious benefits to social media use among seniors. If social media is used to augment in-person contact, that’s fantastic. But there’s a real concern that seniors and their family members might have less of these interactions the more they rely on social media.”

Hence the problem arises if social media becomes more of an addiction or a replacement for interpersonal interaction. It can also lead to a sedentary lifestyle which is notably not good for senior health. Too much phone use can also disrupt sleep since the blue light suppresses melatonin and tells the body to be awake. 

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Fake news and cyberbullying

One of the main potential pitfalls of social media is misleading or inaccurate information that is being spread on social media platforms. It is very important to check your sources and make sure that you are reading news from reliable sources online. Seniors can also be exposed to false information on politics and the coronavirus vaccine, pornography, or other harmful material. 

Another pitfall is the potential for falling prey to cyberbullying or getting wrapped up in online arguments with strangers. Arguments in the comments can be toxic, raise blood pressure, and only lead to more anger and irritation. 

How to manage your social media use

To begin with, be aware of how you are using social media and for how long. Take stock of how you feel after being on social media. Does it drain you, or does it lift your spirits? 

Pay attention to what kinds of content makes you feel better, and what makes you feel worse. Would it make you feel better to take a break and read or walk for a while?

If you are experiencing negative effects of social media, take time for self-care by doing activities that you love, like taking a bath, meditating, knitting, playing solitaire, writing, or doing yoga. Turn off notifications on your smartphone so that you can have a break from time to time. You can also set time limits on apps so that you don’t spend too much time on them. There are options in your phone or tablet’s settings, such as Screen Time, that can help regulate your social media usage. 

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