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Physical and Mental Health

The Center for Humane Technology are a great organisation dedicated to radically reimagining our digital infrastructure. Check out this article (summarized below): which has inspired my approach to business in the technology sector.

Under immense pressure to prioritize engagement and growth, technology platforms have created a race for human attention that’s unleashed invisible harms to society. 

Why It Matters

As technology increasingly pervades our waking lives, research is showing a wide range of effects on our happiness, our self image, and our mental health.


Posting alcohol-related messages on Facebook can lead to an increase in alcoholic behaviour and alcoholic identity in real life. Research analysis of several hundred college students revealed that the more they posted alcohol-related messages, the more their real life social groups tended to shift a few months later towards friends with higher alcohol use, which then in turn linked to an increase in their own levels of drinking a few months after that.

PEER-REVIEWED · D’Angelo, J., & Moreno, M., 2019. Cyberpsychol. Behav. Soc. Networks ↗

30% of 18-44 year olds feel anxious if they haven’t checked Facebook in the last 2 hours. A recent survey of over 2,000 American adults indicates a high incidence of potential warning signs of Facebook addiction, particularly among 18-44 year olds, among whom 30% feel anxious if they haven’t checked it for 2 hours. In fact, many are so hooked that 31% report checking it while driving and 16% while making love.

PRIVATE STUDY · , 2020. Honest Data ↗

The greater your level of Facebook addiction, the lower your brain volume. MRI brain scans of Facebook users demonstrated a significant reduction in gray matter in the amygdala correlated with their level of addiction to Facebook. This pruning away of brain matter is similar to the type of cell death seen in cocaine addicts.

PEER-REVIEWED · He, Q, Turel, O., & Bechara, A., 2017. Nature: Science Reports ↗

1 month away from Facebook leads to a significant improvement in emotional well-being. In an experimental study of over 1,600 American adults (who normally used Facebook for up to an hour each day), deactivating Facebook accounts led to a significant increase in emotional well-being (including a reduction in loneliness and an increase in happiness), as well as a significant reduction in political polarisation.

PEER-REVIEWED · Allcott, H., Braghier, L., Eichmeyer, S., & Gentzkow, M., 2020. American Economic Review ↗

The more time you spend on Instagram, the more likely you are to suffer eating disorders such as orthorexia nervosa, (a clinical condition where sufferers obsess about ideal foods so much that they stop eating adequately, seriously endangering their health). According to research, no other social media platforms have this correlative effect. Scientists believe this is because images of food have more impact — and are remembered longer— than text, and because food images from “celebrity” Instagram users have a dramatically disproportionate influence on their followers’ reactions to food. According to researchers, Instagram’s algorithm recommendations allow othorexia sufferers to become trapped in an echo chamber of images which only show a distorted reality of food images and how to react to food.

PEER-REVIEWED · Turner, P. G., & Lefevre, C. E., 2017. Eat Weight Disorders ↗

The number of “Likes” on a celebrity Instagram account can significantly change how you see yourself. An experimental study showed that when women were exposed to different celebrity Instagram images, their ratings of their own facial appearance dropped in direct proportion to the number of “likes” attached to each image they saw. Given that there are 1 billion active Instagram users, and some celebrities have more than 150 million followers, the scale of impact is vast.

PEER-REVIEWED · Tiggemann, M., Brown, Z., & Veldhuis, J., 2018. Body Image ↗

In just 3 years, there has been a quadrupling in the number of plastic surgeons with patients undergoing cosmetic surgery for the sake of looking good on social media (from 13% in 2016 to 55% in 2019). The greatest increase is in patients under the age of 30, particularly teenagers. Doctors point to the role of social media in creating an exaggerated idea of what is normal in beauty and as a result, distorting viewers’ sense of their own appearance. According to clinicians, such Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) (aka “Snapchat Dysmorphia”) is rapidly on the increase.

PEER-REVIEWED · Rajanala, S., Maymore, M. B. C., & Vashi, N., 2018. JAMA Network: Facial Plastic Surgery ↗

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