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Are You Addicted to Social Media?

By: RAFEENA BACCHUS, M.D.

People are social by nature. We need the company of others, and the strength of our relationships affect our mental and physical health.

Today, many of us use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube and Instagram to connect with each other. Kids, teens, and young adults are the heaviest social media users, but most adults are also active on at least one platform.

For most of us, social media is an enjoyable way to pass time and connect with family and friends. However, some people say social media has a negative impact on their lives, but they continue to use it anyway. Their behavior seems to be out of control, causing some health professionals to say they are addicted to social media.

How social media addiction works
The process of using social media – posting and reacting to content — causes your brain to release the pleasure chemical dopamine. The more you use social media and receive the rewarding dopamine, the more your brain will want it. Over time, your brain can become dependent/addicted to the good feeling social media gives you.

Social media platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube also track your activity and customize your feed to show you posts you want to view and comment on. This makes social media more addictive in nature.

One of the signs of addiction is continuing to use something even after it has clearly had a negative impact on you. If social media use is interfering with your relationships, self-esteem, work or school, but you can’t stop using it, that is a possible sign of addiction.

Signs you may have a social media addiction
If you have several of the behaviors below, it may be a sign that your social media use is getting out of hand.

  • You log in very often, wasting time with unproductive browsing. You check social media first thing in the morning and repeatedly through the day.
  • You constantly check your notifications and update your status.
  • You use social media to escape from the real world. If stress and discomfort in your life are getting to you, you seek refuge in the virtual community.
  • If you can’t get on social media, you get agitated. You become anxious over time spent away from your device or without an internet connection.
  • You plan your social media posts in advance. You go places just to take selfies there, and get distracted during daily activities by thinking about how you plan to describe them later on social media.
  • You get upset when your posts online aren’t appreciated.
  • Social media gets in the way of your real-life connections. You make choices that cut out friends and family and replace them with avatars and status updates.

Health risks of social media addiction
People who habitually and excessively use social media can suffer mental and physical effects.

  • You may unfavorably compare yourself to people online, causing you low self-esteem.
  • Seeing others have a good time may contribute to a greater sense of loneliness, isolation, and the fear of being left out.
  • Exposure to misinformation, especially false health news, can keep you from getting the medical care you need or persuade you to try unsafe products and treatments.
  • Dealing with negative people, trolls and bullies can make you anxious and depressed.
  • Checking your feed late at night/during the night can disrupt your sleep patterns, affecting your performance at work or school.
  • Hours of screen time means less physical activity, which may lower your overall health.
  • Being obsessed with online people can make you ignore the important relationships in your life.
  • Motivated by the desire for online approval, you may engage in risky behavior, such as playing dangerous pranks or posting embarrassing material. And if you glance at your news feed while driving, you are up to four times more likely to be involved in a crash.

How to cut back on social media
If you think social media is becoming a problem, you may need to cut back to reach a healthy level of use. Try the helpful tips below, but if you still struggle, consult with your healthcare provider for additional resources.

  1. Turn off notifications from social media apps. They are a major source of distraction and temptation.
  2. Change the desktop color settings of your phone to black and white to make them less attractive.
  3. Silence your phone during work, as well as during school, meals, and recreational activities.
  4. Delete social media apps from your phone to decrease the amount of time spent on them. (You can still use them on your computer at home.)
  5. Set aside a certain amount of time for social media each day. Don’t go beyond it.
  6. Turn on a timer to help keep you accountable for how much time you spend online.
  7. Leave your phone, tablet, and computer out of your bedroom.
  8. See your friends and family in person more often.
  9. Take up a new hobby that’s not technology-related like sports, art, or classes.

Rafeena Bacchus, M.D.Dr. Rafeena Bacchus sees patients at MPCP’s Columbia office. She received her medical degree from SUNY at the Buffalo School of Medicine and completed her residency program in Internal Medicine at the University of Maryland. She is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

 

Making the Most of Your Doctor Visit

A Q&A with Rafeena Bacchus, M.D.

Most of the time, your primary care physician is your first contact for health care. When you make an appointment, knowing how to prepare and what to expect will help you get the most out of your visit.

Q: What kind of appointments can I get at MPCP?
A: We offer two types of appointments:

  • A problem visit addresses a new problem or revisits an old one.
  • A physical examination is a preventative visit to review your history, examine your body from head to toe, check appropriate blood work (like blood sugar and cholesterol), administer age-appropriate immunizations, and offer age-appropriate screening referrals (like mammograms and colonoscopies).

Making the right kind of appointment will ensure that your doctor can effectively address your health needs.

Q: Can I do anything to get ready for my appointment?
A: There are several steps you can take ahead of time to make sure your appointment runs smoothly:

  • Be very clear about what you need when you make your appointment. This allows your doctor to properly prepare for your visit. For example, if you have abdominal pain, your provider can offer you a drape so you can undress from the waist down for an exam.
  • Know what referrals you need.
  • Take a few minutes to write down notes and questions to make sure all of your concerns get addressed.
  • If your provider asked you to monitor your blood sugar or blood pressure, remember to bring those logs in with you.
  • If you want to discuss tests ordered by a provider outside of MPCP, don’t assume that we have received these records, even if you asked for them to be sent. Track them down and bring them with you. If you need help tracking down records, call your provider’s assistant a day or two prior to your appointment to alert MPCP to this request.

Asking for copies of test results when you are seen elsewhere is always a good idea. It facilitates your bringing them to your provider for discussion and helps eliminate duplicate testing. Feel free to ask for the records and test results – they belong to you.

Q: When should I arrive for my MPCP appointment?
A: Come 10-15 minutes early to complete paperwork, use the bathroom and gather your thoughts. Turn off your cellphone. This will ensure your entire appointment is used for face-to-face time with your doctor.

Q: How long will my appointment last?

A: Appointment lengths vary from 10 minutes for simple problems to 30 minutes for physical examinations or complex problems.

While your provider would like to be able to address every concern you have, this may not be possible due to time limits. You may need more than one visit or visit type to address all of your concerns.

Q: Sometimes my visit is delayed. Why is that?

A. The most common reasons your doctor might be running late for your appointment are patient tardiness, complicated problems and emergencies. Feel free to ask the check-in staff if your provider is running on time.

Q. What does my doctor need to know about my medications?

A: Your doctor will need to know 1) what medications you take, 2) why you take them, 3) the dose for each one, and 4) how often you take them. We encourage all patients to create a list of all medications, supplements, and vitamins you take. Include any drugs a specialist or urgent care center added to your regimen. Some patients bring the actual pill bottles to avoid confusion.

Your doctor can print a list at checkout of all the active medications we are aware of you taking. Once your provider has a full picture of what you take, they can help you avoid drug-drug interactions or be alert to medication-induced illness.

Q. Is it okay to ask questions?
A. It’s your doctor’s job to make sure you understand and follow through on care, so don’t be afraid to ask questions.

If you don’t understand what your doctor tells you, say so. Repeat back what you hear to confirm you have it right. Take notes. If you still aren’t clear after you leave the appointment, call back and ask for clarification.

Q: What health records should I keep?
A. It’s a good idea to keep a folder with copies of these health records:

  • Recent test results
  • Your current medication list
  • Your insurer’s list of covered medications
  • A list of your providers with contact information
  • Pending referrals
  • Lists of your questions
  • Blood sugar or blood pressure diaries
  • Vaccine dates

Take notes at your office visits to help you remember important points about your care, and keep them in your folder so you can review them when necessary. Bring your folder on any visit to a healthcare provider, an urgent care center or hospital to help reduce gaps in your care.

Q: What happens after my appointment?

A: MPCP uses its online Patient Portal to communicate test results, or you doctor may call you. But if you don’t get test results in a timely fashion, be sure to ask for them.

Take prescribed medication as directed, and talk to your provider if you have side effects and need to make adjustments. If your doctor schedules a follow-up appointment, be sure to keep it so your doctor can check on your progress and make any needed changes to your care.

 

Dr. Rafeena Bacchus sees patients at MPCP’s Columbia office. She received her medical degree from SUNY at the Buffalo School of Medicine and completed her residency program in Internal Medicine at the University of Maryland. She is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.