Published on July 1st, 2019
If you ask scientists, and you should, opinions on social media addiction vary. Some believe that it has unique traits, and should be given its own DSM classification. Others believe it’s a symptom or extension of an underlying condition.
Everyone does seem to agree on one thing. Social media addiction is real, and it is a problem.
1. What Is Social Media Addiction?
People often use the term social media addiction to refer to people who spend too much time on social media. That classification isn’t very helpful. First, it’s subjective and often used as a term of disapproval. Just because someone perceives that another person overuses social media doesn’t mean that it’s true.
To be an addiction, there has to be a compulsion. Addiction results in negative consequences. The person who is addicted usually resorts to maladaptive behaviors to continue their addiction.
It’s difficult to say that someone has an addiction to social media simply based on their use of it. Someone could potentially spend several hours a day on social media, and not become addicted. Another person may spend relatively limited time, but exhibit clear indicators of addiction.
2. How Do People Become Addicted To Social Media?
Many who claim that social media addiction isn’t a real focus on physical dependence. Since people don’t become physically dependent on social media and don’t have withdrawal symptoms when they stop, it’s hard for some to see it as an addiction.
It can help to understand the mechanics of addiction. Our brains have a reward center. When we do something that makes us feel good, our dopamine levels rise. Dopamine is basically a ‘feel good’ chemical. Our brains then associate whatever we did with that positive feeling.
Drug use can cause this spike in dopamine, so can physical affection, and exercise as well. People also gain the same feeling when they receive attention, feedback, even sensory stimulation on social media. The latter is why social media games are a factor in addiction.
For the addicted, receiving likes and comments on a shared picture is similar to taking a ‘hit’ of a drug. No, there isn’t a physical dependency, however, people can still experience withdrawal symptoms if they quit or reduce their use of social media.
3. What Are The Symptoms of Social Media Addiction?
Here are some signs that social media addiction may be a concern.
- Sharing Even The Most Mundane Details of Your Life
Do you ‘check in’ at your local grocery store? Do you post on Facebook about the kinds of errands and appointments most people deal with on a daily basis? This could be a sign that you need a sense of ongoing connection via social media.
- Making Plans Around Social Media: AKA Instagramability
Mike Stevens a blogger specializing in media and travel related copywriting at Grab My Essay says, “Most people want to visit beautiful places. They want to eat good food, visit great restaurants, and cook delicious dishes at home. We’ve certainly had moments when our hair, make up, or outfit is spot on. Unfortunately, our perspective has become skewed.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with sharing these moments on social media. The problem comes when you make decisions with social media as the focal point, not your enjoyment and experiences. Unfortunately, this is more common than you realize.
Gut Check: Can You Enjoy Experiences Without Involving Social Media?
- Comparing Yourself to People You Don’t Know All That Well
Social media allows us to connect with people we wouldn’t get to know otherwise. You can follow celebrities. You can connect with friends of friends. You can even respond to a stranger’s comments on other people’s posts.
Connecting is great. It exposes you to new points of view. You can even form genuine friendships on social media. Unfortunately, some people begin to make unhealthy comparisons with others. The problem with this is that what you see on social media isn’t reality. For example, the fitness model you follow shares heavily edited photos to maintain an image.
Gut Check: People Rarely Share Their Flaws And Issues On Social Media. Don’t Compare Yourself With A Character.
- Having Loved One’s Express That Your Social Media Use is Impacting Your Relationship
Sometimes other people notice a problem with your social media use before you do. They may complain that they feel neglected, or that you sacrifice time with them for social media. They may become angry if you share things that they believe are personal.
Gut Check: Is Social Media Causing Relationship Troubles For You?
- Feeling Agitated or Frustrated When You Can’t Access Social Media
Nobody wants to lose their internet or have phone issues. Unfortunately, these things happen. People who have a normal relationship with social media are able to cope. They find something else to do and keep things in perspective.
Gut Check: Can You Survive A Few Hours Without Being Connected To Your Social Media Accounts? Give It A Try, And See How You React.
- Experiencing Negative Consequences Because of Your Social Media Use
It’s rare for any addiction to exist without negative consequences. Social media addicts may lose jobs for spending too much time on the internet at work. They may run their family’s phone plan out of data. They may even have marital issues that are caused by the choices they make on social media.
Jaime Whitmer, an HR specialist at Trust my Paper says, “We’ve had to create a very detailed social media policy over the past ten years. This includes using technology to track and block certain sites. There have been employees who have checked their social media pages as many as 50 times in a single day.”
Gut Check: Have You Ever Gotten Into Trouble Or Done Something That You Were Ashamed Of Because Of Your Need To Participate In Social Media?
- How do You Cure Social Media Addiction
The first thing to do is to figure out what drives your addiction. Are you unhappy with your life? Do you feel disconnected from your loved ones? Are you lonely? Acknowledge what is happening, and you are off to a good start.
Now, give yourself some new things to do when you feel lonely, unhappy, or experience other triggers. Do these things before you go on social media. For example, call a family member if you feel lonely.
It will also help to make it difficult to access social media at times. For example, there are apps that will block access to social websites at certain hours of the day.
Final Thoughts: Progress Not Perfection
Most people cannot fully give up social media. You may need to use it for work. Friends and family members use social media to plan events and make important announcements. What you can do is implement strategies that allow you to limit your use of social media, and maintain a healthy perspective.