Thursday, May 18, 2023

It’s strange to realize just how porous we really are. We may feel ourselves to be solid and composed of only our own bodily elements but in reality, things that are other than us flow in and out every second. At what point do those things stop being other and become us? As poet Jane Hirschfield put it, “At what exact point does the peanut butter sandwich stop being a peanut butter sandwich and start being me?”
In that same way, in what way do the books we read, the tv shows we watch, the news we monitor and the social media we consume become part of who we are? Is it at the point they change our brain chemistry? Maybe when they start affecting our behaviors? For myself, I’ve had to draw the line at watching tv shows that involve too much prolonged evilness. Apparently, I’m willing to take a touch of serial-killer-inflicted torture if they’re quick about it but if they go on too long then I’m outta there because that’s when I start to feel upset. But I wonder why I’m willing to put that into my body at all. Would it make a difference if I knew it was altering my brain in some measurable way?
I don’t know about tv shows but we are beginning to have actual measurements about how social media alters us. While there has long been a wealth of correlational research, there is now a growing body of causal research. It’s largely disturbing and not insignificant. In last week’s Northern Light Health “Good Health is Good Business” conference series, Dr. Nadia Mendiola and Dr. David Prescott from Acadia Hospital gave gripping presentations on the impact social media has on our children and the impact it has on our brains, mental health and workplace productivity. Bottom line, the more social media consumed, the greater our children’s risk, our teenagers’ risk and our own risk is for:
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Cyberbullying
  • Addiction processes
  • Body image problems
  • High risk sexual behaviors and grooming
  • Obesity
  • Headache
  • Sleep impairment
  • Tooth decay
If I hadn’t had the opportunity to watch it live, then I definitely would watch the recording. (You’ll find the slides and the recording at this link.) And if you are a parent, Dr. Mendiola provides very helpful guidelines for recommended screen times in addition to tips for how to manage the complexities and talk about screens with your kids. After all, screens aren’t all bad by any means, and also offer undeniable ways to connect, learn and grow.
But to my mind the bigger question here -- bigger than the specific good or bad of social media or tv shows about serial killers – goes back to the peanut butter sandwich. When do we become what we consume?
Off to another brand-new brave day,