In our social media-driven world, it’s hard to imagine a life without Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We rely on these platforms to stay regularly connected with friends and family, follow the latest news, and share our thoughts and experiences.
But for someone with a social media addiction, their relationship with these apps goes beyond healthy use. Their connectedness through social media isn’t merely periodical or frequent – it is constant.
Their excessive social media use isn’t necessarily about staying connected to others, either – though it can start that way. Instead, other forces drive people with a social media addiction. In this article, we will explore some of these risk factors, along with the harmful impact of social media overuse and how to identify and overcome it.
While not an official diagnosis, social media addiction can contribute to serious consequences for a person’s physical and mental health. If logging into social media has become more of a problem than a hobby, it’s time to consider the possibility of having a social media addiction.
What is Social Media Addiction?
Checking social media feeds frequently throughout the day is the norm, particularly for those in their 20′ and 30’s. But if an uncontrollable urge to check in so often that it begins to cause problems in a person’s life, it’s a strong indication for social media addiction.
This behavioral addiction is characterized by excessive social media platforms. People with a social media addiction are typically preoccupied with the apps, using them to escape from problems or feel better about themselves. Whenever they break from social media, it’s the first thing on their mind and the first thing they return to.
This constant exposure to social media can be damaging both mentally and physically. Social media addiction can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, increased loneliness, sleep deprivation, and health problems linked to reduced physical activity.
What Causes Social Media Addiction?
Many people turn to their phones and social apps because scrolling through them takes their minds off things, even when done mindlessly. However, the compulsive use of social apps for someone with social media addiction is not just about relaxation or mindfulness fun.
When it comes to identifying the causes of social media addiction, there is no single known cause. Although, one’s compulsive desire for “likes” and attention through social apps could be linked to low self-esteem, loneliness or lack of affection, and personal dissatisfaction.
Not everyone who engages in social apps will develop a social media addiction, though greater accessibility for more people is also a risk factor. Research suggests more people will develop a social media addiction at some time in their lives. Currently, an estimated 10 percent of individuals in the United States have this addiction.
While more research is needed to know for sure, there is one major reason why social media can become so addictive. It has everything to do with how social media use influences the brain, like other behavioral addictions. Whenever you log in to your favorite social apps, the brain experiences increased dopamine signals. The more these neurotransmitters associated with pleasure fire off, the brain perceives the activity as rewarding.
For this reason, social media use becomes an activity you want to repeat, especially as the positive feelings are only temporary. So once the dopamine wears off, you return for more. This is how positive reinforcement occurs within the brain, the same as other addictions.
The Signs of Social Media Addiction
Social media addiction is not an officially recognized diagnosis or treatable mental health condition. However, that does not mean it cannot be harmful to your overall health and wellbeing.
The signs of social media addiction are often similar to those associated with other addictions, including alcohol or substance abuse. It’s helpful to know what these symptoms look like so you can get help if needed.
- Spending a lot of time on social media, more than you intended to
- Spending more time on it while out or eating, or even in the company of friends or family
- Thoughts of social media, even when away from it
- Frequently checking notifications and posts
- Negative effects on your schooling or job due to prioritizing social media use over responsibilities
- Excessive dependence on social media to cope with problems
- Becoming angry, irritable, or restless when away from social media
- Losing track of time on social media or doing other activities as a result of it, such as scrolling through feeds for hours
Treatment Options & How To Overcome A Social Media Addiction
If left untreated, a social media addiction can have serious consequences. So if you’re concerned about excessive social media use, it’s important to reach out for help. You can talk with your doctor or a therapist specializing in behavioral addictions and mental health issues.
A counselor or therapist can help identify the underlying causes or triggers of your compulsive social media use. For instance, using social media to escape from life’s problems rather than dealing with them directly.
That said, therapy for social media addiction isn’t only about overcoming it. Therapy is a non-judgmental space where you can learn to deal with other issues and improve how you cope.
In addition, there are some things you can do on your own to help overcome a social media addiction.
- Create healthy boundaries for yourself when it comes to social media use. Decide how much time you’re going to spend on it each day and stick to that limit.
- Turn off notifications on your phone and other sources of temptation so you don’t get sucked in.
- Leave your devices out of your bedroom or where you spend most of your downtime.
- Set time limits using apps that help control social media usage or self-control features built into the operating system on some devices, like smartphones.
- Make it a point to spend more time offline and away from social media. Make time to do other things you once enjoyed, like spending time with friends and family. Engage in physical activities and explore new hobbies if that is helpful.
Final Thoughts on Overcoming Social Media Addiction
If you are concerned about your social media use, reach out for help so you can overcome the addiction before it becomes a bigger problem. No matter how long compulsive social media use has been interfering with your daily activities or causing distress, it’s never too late to stop.
Remember to take frequent breaks and stick to the boundaries you’ve set to help break your overreliance on social media.