It’s no secret that social media runs the world today. But the science is mixed on whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Here’s what you need to know, according to psychologist Dr. JoAnne Cantor – who wrote the book, "Conquer Cyber-Overload."

Let’s start with the good:

  • First: Social media helps you connect. Dr. Cantor says hearing from friends or family makes us feel important and loved.

  • Another good thing about social media: It offers a constant source of support. In the old days, if you needed help with a medical issue, for example, you had to talk to your doctor about finding a support group in your area. Now, you just go online to connect to people who can talk you through tough times. 

  • Social media also makes us feel empowered. The ability to get answers in seconds means that you can get more done, whether you’re helping your kids with homework, or looking for a new job!

So, knowing all that, why does Dr. Canton say there’s a downside to social media? 

  • Because it can make us feel anxious about connecting in person. An MIT study shows that some people develop a “phobia” about having phone, or face-to-face conversations because it’s easier to figure out what to say when you only have 140 characters to use. Dr. Cantor says that’s bad news because research shows that when you talk and smile with other people, it produces changes in the brain that are pleasurable.

  • Another bad thing about social media: It can make you afraid to be alone. Dr. Cantor says that when you know a friend is always ‘a click away’ online, then you’re never truly alone. And she says that unless you learn to enjoy your own company, you’ll feel anxious about being alone. 

Want to go further? The Dr. Cantor’s book is called: "Conquer Cyber-Overload."