We hear about opioid addiction and alcohol addiction all the time, but hardly ever Social Media Addiction. Suprisingly, many people are getting addicted to social media use in this generation, and the effects are so subtle and latent that the issue often escapes public notice. So we don't address it.
The image above is actually from a 2019 blog from Tufts University, which contains this stark statement on the effects of social media:
While physical symptoms such as compulsions to check social media sites are obvious to the human eye, more readily studied and subsequently easily proven, the impact of social media on mental health, by comparison, is poorly researched and underemphasized. Social media presents us with an internal struggle...[it] intensifies the reinforcement behaviors of social reward and punishment that we already have within us.
Wow! This is such a sobering thought. Do you think you have social media addiction? Let's find out.
What is social media addiction?
Social media addiction is an addiction in which one has an uncontrollable urge to log in and use social media, devoting so much time to it that it starts impairing other aspects of their life. Emphasis on the last part "impairing other aspects of their life."
You can enjoy using social media, and that's fine. In short, it has become an indispensable part of our lives, as we can use social media to connect with friends, get information, and grow our brands.
But the problem lies in when social media use starts interfering negatively with your daily activities. For example, neglecting your responsibilities, job, studies, sleep, or outdoor activity in order to spend more time surfing social media platforms.
An hour without logging into your favorite social media platform is like a person battling withdrawal symptoms -- like you're just not complete. You can't live without it for a day. This is when social media becomes an addiction.
And your work/school performance, sleeping patterns, and mental health may suffer when you spend too much time on SM.
Social Media Addiction Facts
Here are the effects of social media addiction according to research:
- People who use the internet heavily are more likely to forget things and make mistakes in daily life. They’re less focused on the world around them. It’s unclear whether the lack of focus is a result of their media consumption or if those who already found it difficult to focus were more inclined to be heavy media users. Read more here.
- On one level, the brains of people who report symptoms of Facebook “addiction” (withdrawal, anxiety, and conflict associated with the site) behave similarly to those addicted to cocaine — the regions of the brain associated with impulsive behavior are similarly active. An important difference between drug users and Facebook users, though, is that Facebook “addicts” retain normal function in the parts of the brain that inhibit such impulsive behavior (read: they probably could overcome their impulses, but they choose not to) . Go here for more.
- On a related note, people with addictive relationships to social media tend to report problems with emotional regulation. “Our findings suggest that disordered online social networking may arise as part of a cluster of risk factors that increase susceptibility to both substance and non-substance addictions,” one study author said.
- Narcissistic people tend to spend more time on social media sites than their less narcissistic counterparts. (Again, it’s unclear which comes first–the social media or the narcissism.) Here’s the report.
Social media consumption has also been linked to depressive symptoms, unhealthy body image and poor academic performance. But it’s important to remember that it’s hard to tell what’s a cause and what’s an effect in these relationships. Is social media use causing these symptoms, or are we turning to social media because of our tendencies and insecurities?
With social media playing an increasing role in our lives, it’s an interesting question and an interesting field of study.
Social Media Addiction Symptoms
How would you know you have social media addiction? Here are some common symptoms of social media addiction:
Spending a lot of time on social media: People with social media addiction often spend excessive amounts of time scrolling through their feeds, checking notifications, and responding to messages.
Inability to limit social media use: Despite wanting to cut back on social media, individuals with addiction find it difficult to control their use of it.
Neglecting responsibilities: Social media addiction can cause people to neglect their work, school, or other important responsibilities.
Withdrawal symptoms: People with social media addiction may experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, or depression when they are unable to access their social media accounts.
Relationship problems: Social media addiction can lead to problems in personal relationships, as individuals may prioritize social media use over spending time with loved ones.
Obsessive thoughts about social media: Individuals with social media addiction may have constant thoughts about checking their social media accounts, even when they are engaged in other activities.
Using social media to escape negative emotions: People with social media addiction may use social media as a way to escape negative emotions, such as anxiety, loneliness, or boredom.
How to avoid social media addiction
One of the best ways to prevent social media addiction is to go on social media breaks. That is, a period when you completely stay off social media and engage yourself in other exciting activities. Moreover, taking social media breaks can be incredibly beneficial to your mental health.
It's also best if you have a life outside social media. Build real life connections so you don't always have to rely on SM to stay connected.