Just Stop! / Necessary Conversations / Second-Hand Shock / Uncategorized

Virtual Vexation: Is Social Media Endangering Your Health?

Last week, I shut down my computer, packed a small bag and headed for the mountains to hang with my dear friends and let my brain stop aching. I felt like I was coming down from a serious binge and had to heal from a heavy hangover. What was the drug? Social Media; a “drug” that will prove to become toxic if taken in frequent and/or large doses.

Many of us spend hours and hours daily posting on a plethora of pages, blogging, tweeting, linking, commenting, uploading, downloading, sharing, responding. This activity is like a contagion and we drag it along everywhere we go: our cell phone, lap top, desk-top. Pretty soon it will be accessible on our wristwatches. Maybe it already is accessible on a wristwatch and I have not kept up!

I know am not alone. Every day, millions of people enter a virtual reality and operate in that alternate reality in a way that changes the structure of the brain and intensifies stress levels. Operating in this virtual reality seems to be moving from a pastime…to a habit…to an obligation…to a pressure…and finally to a consistent, gnawing fear of being left behind. Please; let’s stop the madness!

I call the new syndrome, already widely researched, Virtual Vexation. Virtual is a term which has been defined in philosophy as “that which is not real” but may display the salient qualities of the real. Many of us are operating in our real stressful world and, at the same time, in a quasi-world that has no boundaries or predictable structure because it is constantly changing. The quasi-world will further elevate our stress levels and produce more lethal cortisol in our bodies.

Nicholas Carr already wrote about several research studies in his article entitled “The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains”. Psychologists refer to the information flowing into our working memory as our cognitive load. When the load exceeds our mind’s ability to process and store it, we’re unable to retain the information or to draw connections with other memories. We can’t translate the new material into conceptual knowledge. Our ability to learn suffers, and our understanding remains weak. That’s why the extensive brain activity that scientists discovered in Web searchers may be more a cause for concern than for celebration. It points to cognitive overload. Cognitive overload creates stress and anxiety. Repetitive stress and anxiety will make us sick.

In the real world, weekends serve as our downtime for relaxing and stress-recovery. The virtual world also needs to include downtime. Make a deliberate and conscious decision to limit your virtual experience. If after doing so, you find you can not abide by your own self-created limits, you may be experiencing Virtual Vexation. If this is the case, you need to turn everything off, detoxify and allow your brain to recover. What good is being social if it can make you sick? Think about it.

4 thoughts on “Virtual Vexation: Is Social Media Endangering Your Health?

  1. Maybe it’s my age, but for in the beginning, I felt overloaded with returning all the phone calls and messages on my cell phone, my home phone and my business phone. Then, it was responding to emails from my personal email and my business emails along with my cell phone and business phone. Now, in addition, it is Facebook, LinkedIn, BranchedOut and whatever other “connector” are out there. Virtual Vexation is a perfect term, vexed because you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    When I leave to go to the mountains, I turn off my phone, close my computer and sit and stare at the swaying of the trees, enjoy the sun on my face, the cool breeze and smell of the pines. It takes a few days to get over the anxiety of the cut off from the social media, but it is well worth it. I have a chance to renew my spirit and find that I will survive without that kind of connection. My life is peaceful and uninterrupted. I agree with Ellie- what good is being social if it takes your previous time and can make you sick?

  2. GREAT reminder!
    While in my addictions class, for 6 weeks I committed to going “off-line” (including txt messages) from the hours of 3p-9p, so I could spend more quality time with my girls. It was difficult at first, and occasionally I faltered, but it was entirely worthwhile. Instead of being online escalating my stress, I got to spend many quiet afternoons stitching side-by-side with my teenage daughter…a gift!

  3. I recently came across your site and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


    Cure for Sweaty Feet

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