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Social media has taken the world by storm. Data collected by digital strategy consultancy Kepois shows that 4.8 billion people now regularly use social sites like Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok.
While social media has helped folks connect with one another, many platforms are also notorious for facilitating the spread of half-truths, dangerous misinformation, and negativity.
Wellness fads and dangerous diets are particularly common on social media today. Anyone can create an account and start spreading advice on the web, and the lack of editorial oversight means that many folks fall victim to harmful digital wellness advice.
Most people who share wellness misinformation do so unknowingly. These well-meaning influencers mistakenly believe they are qualified to speak on subjects related to health and wellness while promoting products and services that do not improve users’ health.
Spotting harmful advice and unproven products online can be tricky — particularly if you have a strong connection with your favorite influencers. Fortunately, all social media influencers are legally obliged to let you know when they are posting paid advertorial content.
If you notice that your favorite wellness influencer is selling a lot of products through their platform, dig a little deeper into their background. What kind of credentials do they have? Have they previously promoted products that are little more than snake oil? What studies or peer-reviewed references do they mention when giving advice?
If you come across some posts that are light on research, heavy on opinion, and are pushing a product, it’s probably time to hit the unfollow button and start finding advice elsewhere. Instead, fill your timeline with folks who have the credentials and qualifications necessary to make them an authority on their given wellness subject. This will help you take back your mind and protect you against some of the hidden dangers of social media.
We’re still figuring out the side effects of social media, social sites, and excessive digital content consumption. However, researchers have recently identified a new hidden danger that threatens the health and well-being of young people online: digital self-harm.
Digital self-harm is defined as “anonymous online posting, sending, or otherwise sharing of hurtful content about oneself.” Usually, this occurs when a young person has low self-esteem and is looking to gain some sympathy or as an emotional release.
Self-harming online is a serious problem and is symptomatic of the hidden dangers of social media. Folks who are chronically online tie their self-worth to their virtual identity. This can quickly spiral into real-life issues, as folks who self-harm online are more likely to engage in physical self-harm.
Preventing digital self-harm can be tricky, but strong parental support can make a huge difference. If you’re the parent of a child who self-harms online, you can take steps to improve your kid’s health, well-being, and energy by promoting a better sleep schedule and setting screen-time boundaries.
Finding Better Sources
Social media is awash with misinformation and not-so-subtle sales pitches. However, you don’t need to delete your social accounts entirely if you still enjoy consuming content and connecting with friends. Instead, learn to navigate the digital wellness landscape by finding better sources of information.
Improve the veracity of the information you consume on social media by using the SIFT test: The SIFT test is a commonly used technique for evaluating sources in academic circles, and stands for:
- Stop: Before you share, like, or comment on the content, stop and consider the veracity of the source. What do you know about the content creator? Do they have a good reputation for accuracy and research?
- Investigate: If you’re unsure of the post, dig a little deeper and find out more about the person posting the content. Have they made baseless claims in the past? Are they regarded as a source of reputable content online?
- Find Better Coverage: If a source seems a little shady, look for different coverage. Opt for peer-reviewed research when possible or stick to reputable news outlets that have editorial oversights.
- Trace: Never rely on third-party information and secondary sources. Instead, track the claim down and find out if the source is actually reputable or not.
The SIFT test isn’t infallible, but it can help you identify issues in the digital wellness industry. Start your search for more accurate information online by finding trusted sources and official accounts. Government-run social media profiles may be a little behind the current trends, but they’re almost always a good place to start.
Unplugging from the Web
It’s easy to get lost in social media after a hard day at work. However, being terminally online can put a real strain on your mental health and overall well-being. Occasionally detoxing from social media and the internet can boost your energy and help you regain control over your life.
If you find it difficult to switch off, consider finding a phone that suits your needs. For example, if the allure of social sites is simply overbearing, you may want to pick up a flip phone instead. You’ll just need to make sure the flip phone of choice has 4G connectivity, or it won’t be able to receive some messages or calls. If you still want to take a few memorable pictures, look for a phone with a decent camera and MicroSD card storage.
A lack of editorial oversight means that social media is filled with dubious information and half-truths. As a social media user, you can protect yourself against the hidden dangers of platforms like TikTok and Instagram by learning to better assess the folks you follow. Use the SIFT method to weigh up the accuracy of their posts and consider unplugging if you find yourself online more than you’d like to admit.