What if I told you that social media can lower your testosterone?
I guess most of us suspect that it might negatively affect testosterone to some degree.
In this article, I’m going to show you 6 reasons why it would be a good idea to reduce excess social media consumption as well as screen time.
Social media usage
In America, 65% of the entire population, and 90% of 18–29-year-olds use some form of social media, with 80% using Facebook and 71% using Instagram (R). In the UK, 91% of 16–24-year-olds use social media (R).
During the Covid-19 pandemic, social media use increased by 44% worldwide.
On average, American adults report spending over 2 hours per day on social media interacting with others. By comparison, they spent less than 2 hours per day on eating/drinking, household activities, socializing face-to-face, or exercising (R).
“Upsides” of social media
The upside reported by social media users includes:
- The development of reciprocally supportive relationships
- reduced isolation/loneliness
- reduced depression/increased emotional support
- useful experiential knowledge-sharing
- feeling ‘normal’
Downsides of social media
There are many downsides to excessive use of social media, such as:
- Regression/loss of social skills
- Decreased well-being (R).
- Reduced dopamine, which leads to low motivation, drive and vigor.
- Potential delayed or impaired recovery after experiencing an acute social stressor (R).
- Increased risk of depression. The risk of depression increases by 13% for each hour spent on social media (R).
- Increased risk of metabolic syndrome. Social media use increases the risk of metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, etc.) in a dose-dependent manner independent of physical activity (R).
Top 6 reasons how social media can lower testosterone
#1 EMF and testosterone
Our phones, tablets and laptops constantly emit electromagnetic frequencies (EMF). Constant exposure of the frequencies at close proximity (phone in your pocket or close to crotch or laptop on your lap) can damage the Leydig cells and Sertoli cells and reduce testosterone and sperm production respectively (R).
Exposure to mobile phone radiation for 60 minutes/day for a total period of 3 months significantly decrease the serum testosterone level in Wistar Albino rats (R).
#2 Social media can be stressful
In general, taking a break from social media lowers cortisol (R).
Some people are more prone to the stressful effects of social media than others.
A few ways that social media can be stressful are due to:
- Fear-based news
- Negative comments
- Feeling inadequate
To elaborate on each a little bit more.
#1 Almost everyone who said that they stopped watching the news felt better as a result of it. Social media, especially Twitter, is a hotbed of news, which is mostly negative.
#2 It’s likely that if you’ve participated anywhere online you’ve received negative comments before. Some people are not negatively affected by these comments, whereas others are hurt by them. If negative comments affect you negatively, it can increase your stress and cortisol and create feelings of depression and sadness.
#3 This is more common in games than on social media, but bullies are everywhere. Bullies also like to drop negative comments for no good reason.
#4 & 5 Looking at others that are having a good time or that appear to be better or richer than you can make you feel inadequate and you might envy them. Very few people show how their lives actually really are. Everyone is pretending to an extent. Or they just share the good and you can easily think they’re way better off than they really are.
If I constantly look at guys that are bigger, stronger and more ripped than me, it can make me feel inadequate. Even if they are just the elite of the elite (0.01% of the population), I’ll still feel like I’m not good enough unless I look like that.
Winning and feeling good can increase your testosterone and lower cortisol. But feeling stressed/envious/inadequate when on social media can lower testosterone and increase cortisol.
If you’re able to use social media without it affecting you negatively, but instead lifting you up and motivating you, then it’s likely not harming you in this way.
Regardless, research has shown that taking a break from social media reduces negative emotions (R).
According to this study, there was a positive correlation between young adult emotion dysregulation and problematic/addictive technology use. Beyond this, other variables (such as anxiety, depression, self-esteem, etc.) were also closely related to emotion dysregulation and problematic technology use (R).
#3 Social media and screen time disrupts sleep quality
A lot of people spent time on socials before they hit the sack.
Apart from the fact that social media can be stressful, the blue light from the device also disrupts sleep quality.
Reducing smartphone use improves sleep quality and overall well-being (R, R).
Blue light has been shown to increase cortisol and wakefulness and lower melatonin. This increases the time it takes for you to fall asleep and shorten overall sleep duration and even quality.
Sleep loss or poor-quality sleep reduces testosterone. Testosterone increases during the night with good-quality sleep.
The problem is when people “quit” social media, they just substitute it for instant messaging and do not decrease their total time spent on digital devices (R).
Don’t use social media 60-90min before bed. If social media doesn’t affect you negatively, then just use a blue light filter on your phone to block a lot of the blue light.
#4 Social media robs you of your time
Nothing productive ever happens when you’re mindlessly scrolling through social media.
Important things you can rather be doing are getting sunlight outside, doing some form of activity, interacting with others face to face, etc. These things will increase testosterone and lower cortisol.
Wasted time is also stressful. Even 1 hour wasted per day is 365 hours per year. You could have become a master in something in that time. Instead, you become a master of media consumption, which is not useful.
Excessive online activity and internet use reduce the inability to manage time, energy, and attention during the daytime. It also produces disturbed sleep patterns or insomnia during nighttime (R).
I also use social media here and there, but never at the expense of sunlight, activity, socialization, or working toward a goal that requires time.
#5 Social media can make you feel anhedonic
Excess social media use can cause low dopamine and make you feel anhedonic. This reduces the desire to be outside and active, which increases your T.
This study found that there is an inverse correlation between social media and dopamine synthesis capacity in the bilateral putamen (R). Striatal dopamine tone has been linked with increasing vigor and regulating behavioral variability.
Meaning, more social media use lowers striatal dopamine, which makes you feel flat (anhedonic), tired, lethargic (opposite of vigor) and unmotivated to do anything.
Studies have found that just 30 minutes of social media (e.g. Instagram) can cause mental fatigue that can reduce exercise and sports performance (R, R).
The exception would be if you watch things that make you feel motivated. Then you’re inspired to reach new goals, due to others. However, be careful that you don’t become dependent on that kind of motivation. It’s best to develop that motivation in yourself.
#6 Social media addiction messes with your neurotransmitters
Social media use also causes dysregulation of your other neurotransmitter pathways including GABA and glutamate and dopamine and serotonin.
An imbalance in your dopamine and serotonin pathways can contribute to being even more addicted and dependent (low dopamine) and contribute to circadian dysregulation, increased addiction sensitivity and anxiety (serotonin dysregulation).
Social media addiction causes similar brain structural changes compared to other addictions, namely drugs, gambling, etc. (R)
Digital addiction is identified as functionally equivalent to all addictions, characterized by the compulsive, habitual, and uncontrolled use of digital devices and an excessively repeated engagement in a particular online behavior (R).
“Once the urge to be online has become uncontrollable, it is always accompanied by severe sleep loss, emotional distress, depression, and memory dysfunction. In extreme cases, it may lead to suicide. The syndrome has been linked to the known chronic effects of all drugs, producing disturbances in cellular and molecular mechanisms of the GABAergic and glutamatergic neurotransmitter systems. Dopamine and serotonin synaptic plasticity, essential for impulse control, memory, and sleep function, are measurably altered. The full spectrum of behavioral symptoms in digital addicts include eating disorders and withdrawal from outdoor and social life. Evidence pointing towards dysfunctional melatonin and vitamin D metabolism in digital addicts should be taken into account for carving out perspectives for treatment.” (R)
Top 12 ways to help you reduce your social media use
Summary of social media on testosterone
Excess consumption of social media can lower testosterone by:
- Dysregulating sleep quality and duration
- Increasing cortisol due to experiencing social media in a negative way
- Being more sedentary, thus getting less direct sun exposure and being less active.
As a start, try to limit social media to 60 minutes per day. Then down to 30 minutes. Follow only the people/pages that actually provide value (that’s not just doing mindless entertainment).
Try to limit screen time to 60 minutes before bed. Dim the brightness intensity and use blue light blockers if possible.
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