Social Media and Its Effect on Personal and Professional Wellness

The ubiquitous use of social media technology has had both positive and negative effects on society as a whole and individuals in particular. From making it easier to connect with schoolmates to the pervasiveness of online bullying, we are all influenced by both the positive and negative fallout from using the internet to engage with one another and conduct all aspects of our lives, both personal and professional.

Health and wellness are terms that we often use interchangeably because they are inextricably linked. It’s important, however, to understand that there is a difference. Health is physical, mental, and social well-being that includes but is not limited to the absence of disease. Health is about both physical ailments, as well as about emotional and social fitness. Wellness is the way in which we achieve health. Its focus is on preventative care such as getting vaccines, addressing issues as they arrive, and adhering to eating, fitness, and other regimens that support health. These two concepts go hand-in-hand, and are not limited to our personal lives, but include professional behavior as well.

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How does social media affect health and wellness and what does that mean for your life? Here we’ve pulled together a few ideas for you to consider.

Social media provides access to information.

Pro:  On a positive note, social media platforms provide a wealth of information. If you’re looking to ramp up your fitness in order to improve your overall wellness, all you have to do is log into one of the social media channels to join a workout support group, garner exercise inspiration, or even choose from among many incentive programs that pay you for weight loss. These platforms can help you improve your eating habits, establish exercise regimens, or offer tips for improved mental health. Apps like Pinterest, in particular, provide options for tailoring health and fitness ideas to your specific lifestyle and interest, making it easy to effect a positive change in your routines and in your attitude.

Con: Social media, however, often gives its users the impression that what people post is the complete actuality of their lives. Vulnerable individuals may find themselves comparing the reality of their own lives to social media users who have a tendency to post only positive representations of their lives. For users who feel isolated, happy photos of large groups of friends or people who effortlessly get followers on Instagram may amplify those feelings of loneliness. What is more, many people crop, tweak, and manipulate images they post to present an impression of how they want to be perceived vs. the reality of what and who they are. Separating the reality from the artificial images created on social media may cause some individuals to look upon themselves, their jobs, or even their relationships unfavorably in comparison. In this case, access to information that is not complete can create issues in self-image or mental health.

Social media creates community.

Pro: People who are looking to change long-established and unhealthy habits may find support in online communities. It is intimidating and scary to move against cultural, familial, or even business norms that affect health and wellness. Moving away from sedentary work habits or meals-on-the-go that accommodate a demanding business schedule can mean difficult changes. Online support groups that are designed to help you manage health and fitness both personally and professionally can be especially useful in this area. Reaching out to others who are choosing a similar journey can provide the motivation and encouragement needed to make long-term modifications.

Con: The flip side of the “supportive community” coin is that everyone’s journey is going to look different. Social media platforms that show the success of others who are achieving their health and fitness goals can discourage some people from trying.  Realizing you aren’t built to have six-pack abs or comparing your workout goal to someone who is striving to run a marathon may prevent you from trying.

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Add to this the fact that competing with photoshopped or professional images that present an unrealistic outcome of a particular weight loss or fitness program creates a fear that we cannot achieve and may prevent us from trying something we are afraid we cannot attain. An important part of using social media communities for health and wellness is starting with a positive and realistic perspective regarding what we hope to achieve. Whether it’s toning up, dropping a couple of pounds, or feeling better overall, it’s critical to consider our goals before using social media as a resource.

Has social media affected your perspective of health and wellness? Share your thoughts here.

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