You don’t have to be a trained scientist to know that spending time online can raise your blood pressure.
That’s the darker nature of social media. Tools developed to meaningfully improve human communication have allowed people across the planet to argue about politics or hurl insults at one another at a speed undreamed of by our ancestors.
For the past several years, experts report drawing clear connections between time spent on apps such as Facebook or Twitter and elevated occurrences of depression, anxiety or isolation.
Those are adverse mental and emotional effects. But few researchers seemed to have delved deeply into the possible physical ill effects from the same activities.
That’s what’s intriguing about recently released findings from Augusta University researchers.
The findings from trained scientists? Spending time online can raise your blood pressure.
More specifically, people who use social media heavily have been found to suffer from high blood pressure at night, which is a leading risk factor for heart disease.
Dr. James D. Halbert, a postdoctoral researcher at AU’s Georgia Prevention Institute, and Gregory Harshfield, the institute’s director, were looking for new sources of stress that raise blood pressure. They didn’t have far to look, given the sorry state of blood-boiling incivility online these days.
Studying their test subjects revealed that nighttime blood pressure was most prevalent among frequent cellphone users; whose personalities were a generally balanced mix of both introverted and extroverted qualities; and who fell within a certain age group.
But it wasn’t among old folks, as researchers were expecting. It occurred most often among millennials, the societal cohort loosely defined as people in their 20s or early 30s on which mobile technology had a formative influence.
Why those groups, and what specifically spurs the stress? The study’s authors aren’t sure, but it’s worth studying further. Social media is here to stay, and every problem connected with it should be fully understood for the sake of everyone’s wellness.
Lately, it seems just about every angle on social media’s negative mental-health effects has been explored, observed, measured, studied and written about by researchers for scholarly journals. We even came across a 2017 study from the Industry Psychiatry Journal, titled “Adverse health effects and unhealthy behaviors among dental undergraduates surfing social networking sites.”
But studies’ findings are difficult to dispute. You can be a social butterfly on Instagram or on message boards, but still can be a hermit. Social media shields you from actual personal human contact. And being deprived of that can spur depression, anxiety, disrupted sleep patterns and, as AU’s findings now indicate, a too-prevalent physical ailment that health professionals often dub “the silent killer.”
The increasing worry over coronavirus is sure to keep more citizens at home — which will glue more people to their computer keyboards and mobile devices. Without adding to rising hysteria, practice commonsense protection to avoid getting ill.
But after the disease known as COVID-19 fades, take extra preventive caution. There are very few reasonable excuses to stay shackled to social media that outweigh the importance of self-care. A sedentary, solitary lifestyle is a sure way to shorten your life. Spend less time tapping on a keyboard and more time staying physically active. And stay socially engaged the old-fashioned way — face-to-face.
An editorial from The Augusta Chronicle, Georgia.