It’s not hard to figure out how social media is bad for you. Here are just a few ways:

  • Too much time-wasting
  • Over-the-top drama and emotionally-charged exchanges or exposure (in between the cute kitten and goat videos)
  • False sense of security in publicizing private information that could later prove detrimental

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But social networking can actually be good for your health.

First, just as your connections on Facebook and Twitter may be a virtual world filled with unhealthy relationships and angry exchanges, jealousies, or rudeness, so can that same cyber world provide crucial support for your real life. With the help of technology (to “hide” those angry rants or “unfriend” those annoying people), you can make social media an environment of networked learning and nurturing.

It’s about Relationships

Social media allows you to stay connected to friends and relatives when you move away from your childhood hometown or separate from your family temporarily. No need to explain how connecting with people you care about improves your health and happiness.

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So long as you control your social media use, you can enjoy the benefits of many nourishing close and distant relationships, probably more than you could sustain in your busy real life. So long as you don’t let your online socializing interfere with your work, school, and flesh-and- blood offline relationships. Like any time management specialist would advise, schedule a specific time slot for online socializing.

If you’re disciplined and maintain a balanced perspective of your social media life (not emotional roller-coasting on the ups and downs of the many or missing “likes” for your post), you can keep and grow enriching relationships full of laughter, sharing, and support.

The key, of course, is moderation. Use a timer or a productivity app if you can’t resist the temptation to stay on just a little longer than you should. Seek professional help if the time you spend on social media negatively impacts the rest of your life. Social media addiction is real.

And keep it positive. You have control over what you see and respond to on social media. Don’t engage in futile debates or frothy arguments for the sake of argument, especially if they leave you agitated. You craft your world with friends and acquaintances you want to see in your feed.

Good for Your Health

Not only for friendships, social media allows you to join support groups, like depression sufferers from divorce, loss of a child, or acute health problems. By instant sharing of your symptoms and stories, you can get advice, tips, and recommendations for remedies, doctors, and treatmentsbut most importantly, commiseration and understanding.

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But, of course, you can’t rely on social networking alone for medical advice or psychological counseling. Even if you follow some of the most renowned doctors, healers, psychologists, or spiritualists with Twitter feeds brimming with terrific links to informative health blogs and websites, you should seek professional counseling before using any information to self-diagnose or treat illness.  

But if you’re looking for general information about diet, exercise, or treatments for various ailments, you’ll find helpful information for your healthcare provider in discussing your care. You might discover a potential cure or therapy from a Facebook group of hypothyroid sufferers that you could run by your doctor. Consider social media a place to start your research.

What do Health Consumers Look for Online?

Nearly half of U.S. consumers seek online health-related reviews of physician, facilities, treatments, and the like. Nearly two-thirds visit forums seeking friends’, family’s or patients’ experiences with health issues or disease, and one fourth search for health-related videos or images, according to one social media and health report.

And the World Health Organization reports that more than 4 billion people around the globe own smartphones with access to social media. That means that the world’s consumersno matter how geographically isolateddisseminate and access a wealth of information about health, lifestyle, medications, and treatments, building stores of anecdotal evidence of all aspects of health and care.

And there are forums for everything from weight loss, substance abuse, and smoking cessation to experimental cancer treatments. People build connections on these social media platforms, keep each other accountable, support health-related causes, or raise money for individuals needing financial support.

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With all of this free-flowing health data created by consumers (despite privacy concerns), researchers are better able to tabulate patient experiences, say, reactions to medications, responses to particular treatments, and lifestyle correlations to disease management than they can in office consultations and records searches.

Also, consumers keep healthcare providers in check through customer ratings, reviews, and rants in discussion forums and on health care sites. Word gets around. Accountability leads to better service for the consumer.

Finally, healthcare data and support on social media helps alleviate some of the congestion in doctors’ offices for patients merely wanting simple information that can easily be found online or communicated by a patient’s provider on social media. In that way, physicians prioritize cases that need office visits.

So, yes, with a few caveats, social networking boosts your health in both unsuspecting and obvious ways. It improves your life quality and places the control over your health squarely in your own hands.