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Living in your head (aka social media) instead of the real world can be dangerous

In this day and age, people are glued to their smart phones and other electronic devices. They hardly look up and old time family dinners are often a thing of the past. Alternatively, people binge watch TV or spend significant time playing video games. None of these activities require or encourage interaction with the real world or with other people.

In an article, The Effects of Social Media on Mental Health, Dr. Christine Stabler explored potential mental health risks when you allow yourself to go down this particular rabbit hole. There she said social media can be addictive. Think about the last time you asked someone to put away their cell phone or turn it off. Yeah, they either refused or fidgited until they reconnected.

Social media can impair your ability to focus on interactions. This is the new style dinner phenomenon where two or more people are having dinner and at least one person is unplugged from the event because he or she is focused elsewhere. Dr. Stabler says fear of missing out (FOMO) can be part of social media’s enticement as it draws you into its virtual world.

Dr. Stabler suggests a few activities to help curb unhealthy social media behavor, although your creativity is your only limit in finding other ways to plug into the real world. Her suggestions are:

  • Plan a small gathering
  • Take time to get out and exercise
  • Find a place to volunteer
  • Spend some face-to-face time with a good friend

Why is this important for older persons? Well, an August 4, 2022 article on HealthDay reported a new study indicating that lifestyle is a significant factor in warding off dementia. You can lower your risk of dementia by socializing, taking classes and exercising to boost your brain’s cognitive reserve and stave off memory and thinking problems. Professor Michal Schnaider Beeri, co-author of an editorial published with the study, said “Feeding our brains with intellectual engagement and effort should be seen as a lifelong process to maintain healthy brain aging.” Staying glued to a phone or binge watching TV seems to do nothing to lower your risk of dementia. It certainly does nothing to improve relationships with the people you care about. So, … put down the phone and talk with someone you care about.

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