The Sensitive Gut

Understanding IBS

Does Facebook make your IBS worse?

facebookAbout 31 million people in the UK go on Facebook every single day; over 50% of the population.  And each of them spends on average 30 hours a month, which equates to 55 minutes a day on line.  About half of that number use Twitter.   Most users of Facebook and Twitter are under 34 and there are slightly more women than men.  These demographics are not so much different to figures for medically unexplained illnesses which include IBS.  Nobody has investigated whether people within a certain demographic who use social media are more likely to have IBS than those who don’t, but Facebook and stress related illness are both features of modern life.  Could there be a causal link?  Why should we think that Facebook could make your IBS worse?

Could it be the stress of it all.  Social media is demanding.  At a time when many people live isolated lives, social media serves functions of a never ending social gathering and a busy market place.   Such situations require vigilance and demand reaction.  Can you get in there and grab the attention with interesting content before anybody else does?  Can you be noticed and attract positive comment without being ignored or attacked? People are outspoken on Facebook, they often write things that are much more provocative and reactive than they would say in real life.  Complete strangers may attack you publically, exploit you and even groom youngsters.  The world of social media can dangerous and worrying.   Accessed at a time when people should be winding down after a busy day, provocative posts and strident tweets can wind them up, causing anxiety and irritation and interrupting sleep.

We know that sustained emotional pressure can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, causing spasm, altering bowel habit and increasing bowel sensitivity.  It can also maintain high cortisol levels which can make the bowel leaky to bacteria which act via the gut immune system to release cytokines and modulating inflammation and sensitivity.  The sensitive bowels of people with symptoms of IBS are highly susceptible to the effects of stress.

It would seem ridiculous to suggest that Facebook could be the cause of IBS, though it could be an important provocation and might even be more subtle and more pernicious.  Let me explain.  Social media is a platform for advertisement and reaction, an outlet for narcissism, an expression of insecurity, a need for reassurance.  People put quite personal stuff about themselves on Facebook for comment.  Am I good enough?  In their desperate desire for acknowledgment and affirmation, they risk being ignored or rejected.  Could this roller coaster of recognition and rejection fuel the kind of addiction that is not unlike that of love addicts, who suffer agonies of rejection until they next see their lover.   Indeed, I wonder whether drug addiction is a surrogate for love addiction.  Do drug addicts crave that same feeling of peace and unconditional love from chemicals.

So, do Facebook addicts live in torment of potential rejection?  Do they still want me?  Am I still getting enough followers, enough comments?  Are they retweeting? If only I wasn’t in so much pain.


“Is social media to blame for the worsening mental health of teenage girls?”

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This entry was posted on October 19, 2015 by in sensitivity, Stress and tagged , , .

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