Yes, being addicted to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social platforms may seem harmless at first, but it can have significant unforeseen consequences. It can trigger a dopamine response in the brain, a very similar scenario to that triggered by drug or alcohol use. Experts call it ‘social media addiction’.
Social media platforms have exponentially grown in recent years, particularly in expanding to all ages and for all needs. Now, every type of platform like socializing, dating, businesses, and even mental health resources are available.
Hence, there are much research has been focused on the benefits and risks of engaging in such platforms and understanding the influence on new behaviors and connections.
What is social media addiction?
While social media helps keep the world connected, social media addiction is becoming a global problem that keeps growing.
- As of 2018, 3.1 billion people — roughly one-third of the global population — use social media.
- Estimates posit that over 210 million people suffer from internet and social media addictions worldwide.
Social media addiction is very similar to behavioral addiction. We spend excessive time thinking about social media activities. It makes us check social media platforms again and again.
Check out these seven signs of social media addiction;
- You Feel Anxious When You Cannot Access Social Media
- Your Social Media Usage Is Cutting into Your Work Time
- You Immediately Check Your Phone When You Hear a Notification
- You Tentatively Monitor Your Posts to See How Many Likes You Get
- You Check Your Accounts Right When You Wake up And Right before Bed
- Your Spouse, Friends and Family Say You Seem “Distant”
- You Measure Life Events by How Upload-Worthy They Are
- You have a tendency of oversharing your every thought for the purpose of approval and acknowledgment.
Suddenly you feel depressed, unproductive and downright irritable, all because of the world within your phone.
It will make you not want to have real social interactions if you can say one thing to hundreds of people in one click. Your mind will be occupied with viewing photos, liking posts, and commenting instead of learning something new.
How does social media addiction affect your life?
Research has shown that social media addiction produces a surge in dopamine due to the reward center part of our brain that gets activated with each like, comment, thumbs up, and retweet that is facilitated.
Each time our reward center gets activated and dopamine gets released, the behavior becomes reinforced and the brain can leave you wanting more and more, and feeling addicted.
Eventually, it will take more of that stimulus to activate the same level of dopamine and addiction persists. This affects your cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and psychological well-being.
For instance, you may get a feeling of Ahhh, when you logged in to your social media profile. A sigh of relief, isn’t it? However, feelings of distress with or without physiological symptoms (fidgety, increase in heart rate, tearfulness, for example) when not engaging in social media.
When someone is addicted, he/she may notice an immediate return to old behavior and consequential impairments suddenly if resumed to social media.
A 2018 study found that teens who spend 5 hours per day using their phones were almost twice as likely to exhibit depressive symptoms than counterparts who dedicated only 1 hour to their phones.
Interestingly, the relationship between excessive mobile use and depression appears to be strongly linked to gender, with 58% more females than males experiencing depressive symptoms.
A recent study containing over 23,500 participants between the ages of 16 and 88 found that being a young, single female was most strongly associated with displaying addictive social media behavior.
Social media addiction doesn’t just affect behavior during the day; it even damages people’s ability to sleep. If prolonged exposure to screens wasn’t bad enough for people’s sleep, social media addictions are making it even harder for people to get a good night’s sleep.
45% of people check social media instead of sleeping, and roughly 10% of teens check their phones more than 10 times per night.
Social media can also be a distraction as it can be dangerous to look at your phone while driving or walking across the street. 90% of drivers admit to using smartphones behind the wheel. Of those respondents, 50% reportedly use their smartphones to check social media.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that each day, 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured as a result of smartphone use while driving.
There are physical impacts that can occur from social media addiction such as carpal tunnel syndrome where you have problems with your hands or wrists from too much typing. Typing on your smartphone can also cause strain in your finger tendons.
You could also develop eyestrain from staring at the screen for too long.
It is important to be in control of your time spent on social media or it can destroy your physical and mental health over time.
How to break social media addiction?
Do others ask you to put your phone down? Do your children comment that you’re never available? Do you ever miss or are late for activities because you were on social media? Are your children getting in trouble at school because of it?
Once you admit you have a problem, you must follow recovery steps as soon as possible. It does not mean that you have to abstain from social media entirely, but setting limits can be a better idea – the controlled use of the internet.
You may be able to break a social media addiction by
- Setting the limit to your time spent on social media and stick to it. Nowadays, many phones have this feature to show phone use by default.
- Going on a cleanse, deleting apps
- Disabling the push notifications and lessen the urge to constantly check your feed.
- Dedicating time to other hobbies or activities.
- Do something productive like walking, reading a book, exercise, etc.
- Share your maximum time with family and relatives. It is your parents who will come to your rescue.
- Identify your buddies away from home. Spend more time with them in person.
- Speaking to a trained professional can be a good option if you are confused about your addiction status.
Remember, it’s you who is responsible for your well-being. Set your goals, share with your family or a friend so that they can check in with you about it.
Breaking habits alone can be difficult and takes along. Have patience and live in the moment instead of living to occupy your social media feed.