Is social media junk food for your mind? Symptoms of a bad brain diet explained

What does your brain diet look like? No, this isn’t one of those trendy fad diets I’m talking about here. It’s not about the types of food you ingest, but rather what your brain consumes as a result of the social media you follow.

Just like the food we put into our mouths has an effect on our health and how we feel, our minds too behave in a similar way when it comes to the content we consume.

So with that in mind, ask yourself, do you have a bad brain diet?

Are you gorging yourself on an everlasting stream of highly processed and artificially enhanced content? Does your social media nourish your mind? Does it encourage, empower and educate you? Or does it make you feel crappy, drained and depressed? If you answered yes to the latter (and no judgement) then it could be because you’re devouring lavish amounts of the wrong things.

Hankering for highly processed?

In terms of food, a processed food is any food that has been altered in some way during preparation- sound familiar? Photoshop, I’m looking at you! Just like foods that go through various levels of processing, like, let’s say a frozen pizza- photoshop can be used to completely distort a woman’s body into something it’s not, say Khloe Kardashian’s for example.

The result of consuming too much of this highly processed and altered stuff? Well, food wise it’s a sure contributor to the obesity epidemic. But as for our brains and how it makes us feel? It causes low self-esteem and body image issues, particularly among young people. Consuming these types of images can lead us to believe that beauty can only exist in an unachievable body type- unachievable because it has been manufactured much like that frozen deep pan meat feast pizza was.

Too much salt?

We know that eating too much salt can have a range of effects, from bloating and severe thirst right the way to heart disease, but what about if your social media feed is way too salty?(see what I did there). Social media can be a breeding ground for negativity. We’ve got the keyboard warriors, the trolls and the online tough guys all manifesting their negativity through the text-based mediums of the internet.

Much like it’s food twin, all that salt, all that anger, aggression and hostility becomes TOXIC, subsequently making us feel negative and just plain miserable. This is the ugly side of social media where it has the power to allow people to criticise, belittle and bully others, sometimes on such a grand scale that it can potentially lead to depression and even suicide. Negativity should occupy the least amount of space in our lives yet this toxic behaviour can take up more than we should allow it to.

Excessive empty calories?

Calories are supposed to give us energy right? With that said, how exactly can they be empty? Empty calories such as cookies and crisps do indeed supply energy, but it’s not exactly nutritionally balanced because they lack the nutrients and minerals the body needs to keep it strong and healthy. Ask yourself, does your social media contain too many empty calories? Is it providing you with the nourishment necessary for good growth and health or is it full of salt, sugar and a load of artificial twaddle?

If we don’t nourish our bodies with the right nutrients then we can become stressed, tired and find it difficult to concentrate or even feel motivated. Lacking in nutrients when it comes to your social media may be that your twitter feed is shallow, or your instagram superficial- stuff that lacks depth or is only skin-deep- not wholesome and virtuous. Sure it’s okay in small doses but ultimately it’s deficient of the nourishment that’s needed for personal growth.

Addicted to artificial additives?

To understand my point we first have to define what an artificial additive is when it comes to actual food. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, artificial additives are not naturally present in foods and are made synthetically. In addition to prolonging shelf-life, additives are used to improve appearance (think instagram and snapchat filters) and flavour (think Twitter- spicing up facts and disrupting the truth). These artificial additives aren’t entirely natural but rather a replication or interpretation of the real thing.

Here’s where it gets risky. Additives like artificial sweeteners can be addictive. They stimulate our taste buds, affect our hormones and slow our metabolism but yet we still reach for the cookie jar or another slice of cake. Why? This addiction is not simply caused by a lack of willpower but is brought on by a dopamine signal that affects how the brain responds. And it’s not just the food we eat that causes this- social media can too.

Glued to your phone? Suffering from texting thumb or text neck (both actual things by the way), all that scrolling, swiping and slumping can cause not only physical symptoms but emotional ones too. Opening your social media apps causes those darned dopamine signals in your brain to surge, associating what you’re doing with enjoyment and as a consequence your brain identifies this activity as a gratifying one that compulses you to repeat. Sure as heck, once that feel-good dopamine wears off, you open that app right back up for some more of the good stuff.

But is it good stuff?

Sure, social media can be a welcome distraction to the procrastinators (not that we need one), but is our social media good for us? Well that part is down to you. Much like you know when your diet is a bit crappy because you’ve chosen to eat all the wrong foods, what you choose (note-choose) to consume on social media really is the meat and potatoes (sorry, had to) when it comes to a attaining a healthy mind.

So what should you do next?

  • Stop with the junk– just like you wouldn’t buy that tub of ice cream for risk of temptation, don’t follow the accounts that are not good for you- the ones that bring you down or feed your self-doubt.
  • Detox– I’m not talking green juice but a cleanse?- Yes, take days or even weeks when you’re completely free of social media.
  • Consume consciously– you wouldn’t eat the entire contents of your snack cupboard without thinking twice, so don’t binge social media but set a time limit instead.
  • Limit snacking– it’s probable you’re on autopilot when it comes to checking your social media,and similar to my previous point, it’s best you’re conscious of these habits so you are better placed to stop them in their tracks.
  • Swap junk with fresh and organic- social media isn’t all bad, in fact it can be as beautiful, inspiring and positive as you make it. Click here for 25 Most Inspirational Instagram Accounts to Follow
  • Cut out artificial additives– be mindful of both the content you consume as well as the content you create. Don’t be tempted to churn out stuff that offers little connection just for the sake of it. Organic, honest and relatable content can be encouraging, therapeutic and offer great comfort to those you share it with.

In a nutshell

Remember that what your body ingests and brain consumes are vital contributors to how you feel. Recognise that you have control over both of these, that what you choose to feed both your body and mind is your choice, and yours alone. So be sure to favour a diet that will provide you with the nourishment, positivity and strength to live a happy, healthy life.

9 Comments

  1. I love how you compared social media usage to food intake, I found this an interesting read! It’s true that just like food, social media can be good for you if you use it healthily, but can be bad if filled with junk. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love your comparisons! This comes as a very timely post for me. I’m currently at the point of a 6-week “leave” from Facebook. I was completely addicted and it was no longer meeting my needs. Instead, I was finding it an increasingly negative and soul-sucking experience. The break has been good for me on so many more levels than I had thought possible. Thank you for your insights!

    Liked by 1 person

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