Social media isn’t new by any means and there’s no sign of it slowing down. Over the past couple of decades the number of platforms and users has grown exponentially. And the growth is global. In 2021, there was a 10% growth in social media users worldwide compared to the year before.
By October 2021, around 4.6 billion people were active internet users (approximately 59% of the world’s population) with nine out of ten of those using social media.
And so, it’s increasingly important that we are all aware of both the positive and negatives of social media? Can you help your people harness their power for good and avoid the pitfalls? Is there something that can be done to help employees reduce their overall screen time?
Did you know that the typical user spends nearly two and a half hours on social media every day?1
The positive role of social media in everyday life
It’s hard to deny that social media, like most new technologies, has bought with it a host of benefits that allow us to do things in a way we haven’t before. It’s never been easier to stay connected to people, whether the other side of the world or close to home. And this was particularly beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people around the world had to stay inside alone, with minimal face-to-face interaction.
As well as connection, these platforms are a great form of entertainment – from videos and GIFs to pictures and memes, social media can be a fun way to pass time.
And it isn’t just useful for end users – social media has also provided huge benefits for businesses, to market and sell products, and connect with customers. The healthcare sector has also benefitted, as social media allows providers to share important public health information seamlessly, educating patients about risk factors and symptoms of different conditions.
Technology has also enabled virtual healthcare – where patients can access diagnosis and treatment from the comfort of home. Not only is this a time saver that lots of patients prefer, but it was particularly helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic as lockdowns left many unable to access healthcare.
Some potential pitfalls of social media and digital technology
That’s some of the good, but what about some of the bad?
Mis- and dis-information
With access to such a vast amount of knowledge, you’d think that patients would be becoming smarter about their health. However, not all information that’s shared online and through social media is good – there’s vast amounts of information available that may not be valid or reliable, which can cause more harm than good.
Disinformation or misinformation can be tricky to identify, and it can be hard to know what’s accurate and what we should ignore. This became even more noticeable during the pandemic, when social media became a hotspot for articles and posts about COVID-19 and health. During this time, much of what was spread online included information that wasn’t factually correct – a social media misinformation storm has the potential to negatively impact peoples’ physical and mental health.
As well as the risk of misinformation, studies have also shown that using social media often leads to multitasking. When people try to do too many things at once, or ‘multitask’, they end up reducing efficiency and creating more cognitive stress than they need to, ultimately promoting negative emotions.
Social media addiction
This is a more and more recognised issue. Research has shown that social media triggers the dopamine reward system in the brain, making it addictive. However, excessive use of social media has been linked to a host of mental health issues from brain fog and tiredness to depressive behaviours and eating disorders.
So, it’s important that we all use social media and digital technology sensibly to prevent potential negative impacts. How can we get away from overusing our smartphones or social media accounts when they connect us to the world?
So…what can you do for your people?
It’s clear that social media can have both positive and negative effects on your people’s lives as can the use of technology fullstop. Is there something that you, as a multinational employer, can do to help your people harness the good and avoid the potential negative impacts?
Of course, individuals have to take responsibility and make changes to their work and personal lives to benefit themselves, but organisations also have a role to play. Here’s a few ideas.
Suggest a digital detox
One method used to combat social media addiction is a digital detox. This is the act of putting your phone or other media devices away for a set period of time. For example, you could suggest employees set an hour aside in the evening to check their social media and not look at their phones the rest of the time. Or you could suggest a ‘phone free’ hour before going to bed. Digital detoxes have been shown to improve people’s attention spans and reduce levels of anxiety and stress.
Encourage screen breaks
Companies continue to come up with creative ways of encouraging their people to take other types of digital breaks. You could create device free zones in the office, giving people the chance to disconnect for five minutes and recharge before tackling new tasks and challenges.
Why not try encouraging face-to-face meetings away from screens where possible… even better if you can suggest taking a meeting outside or on a walk. All of these things can give your employees the chance to recharge their mental batteries and operate at their strongest for their next task.
Shorten virtual meetings
Back-to-back video calls can be draining too. Zoom fatigue has become common over the last two years, with workers connecting remotely all day. You could encourage people to book 25-minute meetings instead of 30 minutes, or 50 minutes instead of one hour, giving everyone that much needed chance to get away from the screen.
Run an awareness campaign
Knowledge is power. The more your people know about the potential negative effects of social media and technology, the more likely they are to avoid them. Perhaps you could consider running an awareness campaign in your workplace to help your people navigate the changing world of social media and technology.
We’ve covered just some of the positives and negatives in this article, but, in truth, this is a topic that is ever evolving and can impact us all. If you’d like to find out more about social media, digital technology and health contact your MAXIS representative to see how you can run an awareness campaign that has all the resources you need to help your people use them effectively.
1 Anon, Datareportal www.datareportal.com/social-media-users (sourced June 2022)
2 MAXIS GBN, Social Media Toolkit, Health & Wellness, Handout 1
3 John P. A. Ioannidis et al, Journal of Clinical Investigation https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/eci.12834 (sourced June 2022)
4 MAXIS GBN, Social Media Toolkit, Health & Wellness, Handout 2 – Multitasking
5 Christine M. Stabler, Lancaster General Health https://lancastergeneralhealth.org/health-hub-home/2021/september/the-effects-of-social-media-on-mental-health (Sourced June 2022)
This document has been prepared by MAXIS GBN and is for informational purposes only – it does not constitute advice. MAXIS GBN has made every effort to ensure that the information contained in this document has been obtained from reliable sources but cannot guarantee accuracy or completeness. The information contained in this document may be subject to change at any time without notice. Any reliance you place on this information is therefore strictly at your own risk.
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