New Year’s Resolutions: Social Media and Health

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By: Tomas Mulleady, Adjunct Health & Wellness Professor, Tulane School of Professional Advancement.

How many times have you seen someone ask for medical advice or a recommendation for a physician on social media? These digital platforms have interrupted the traditional healthcare space and transformed the way that doctors, hospitals and patients interact.

Social media has altered how our community accesses information by breaking down barriers and putting the information directly in the hands of the consumer. Social media is now an important variable in how people live, act and interact. The technology has brought with it both positives and negatives, as it relates to personal health.

Having so much available at your fingertips 24/7 is bound to impact lifestyle. Media exposure and social media consumption begins early and can peak at almost eight hours a day among children 11 and 12 years old. Many healthcare professional and advocacy groups recommend less screen time.

Yes, there are health benefits that can be attributed to social media. The platforms can provide a space for exercise and recipe idea sharing, small groups formed within can offer a safe space for coaching networks and learning opportunities and referrals to seek face-to-face care.

Social media is also a repository for well-being messages contributed by health organizations. These can look like ads, posts or videos to stop smoking, seek preventative screenings or access lines for mental health assistance. Non-profit health organizations and health related businesses such as hospitals and physicians’ groups are using these platforms to place health messaging and meet their consumers where they are spending their time.

But there are also health issues that have presented because of social media such as the related sedentary time, negative body image and medical advice by unlicensed institutions or trainers, to name a few. Taking medical advice from social media at face value without checking sources can lead to problems.

Understanding the need to find a balance for social media is important. As you look to identify a new year‘s resolution for yourself or your family, consider setting a resolution devoted to your social media consumption.

Suggestions would be to set a dedicated time and place to check social media, stop yourself from mindless searching and irrelevant activity, use reputable sources and beware of personal security issues. For example, check your favorite social platform only after you have gotten your 30 minutes of physical activity that day. Seek a new workout from a social media platform to help prevent exercise monotony and make your searching purposeful or be determined to verify sources when reading articles or watching health videos.

By analyzing your social media use and understanding the good and bad, you can be more aware of your consumption and what changes need to be made. Setting a goal can help you be accountable to what you want to accomplish and inspire change in yourself. Shifting the way you consume social media can lead to positive impacts on your health in the new year.

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