Social Media Addiction

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents
    | Group 67

    What Is Social Media?

    | grey bubble

    The term “social media” refers to any website or mobile application that allows users to create and share content, communicate with one another, and participate in social networking. The first social networking platforms were created in the late 1990s, with the most popular sites appearing on the internet in the early to mid-2000s.

    | grey bubble

    Some of the most popular social media platforms today include Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. Different platforms operate in unique ways, with their own features, interface designs, and social etiquette. For example, Instagram is a primarily picture-based platform, while Twitter users must compose their content within a constraint of 280 characters or less.

    | Group 67

    What Is Social Media Addiction?

    | bubble
    | grey bubble

    Overusing social media can be a serious problem. Social media addiction is a psychological condition that compels someone to be overly concerned about social media, spending so much time on these platforms that it impacts other aspects of their life.

     

    | grey bubble

    If you have a social media addiction, you may feel an uncontrollable urge to log on to these sites multiple times per day. You may devote so much time and energy to post and engage with other users that you neglect to take care of yourself. In some cases, you may engage in risky behaviors in order to gain attention on social media.

    | grey bubble

    You may also notice that you begin to use social media more and more as time goes on, developing a tolerance to your usual consumption. When you stop using social media, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms until you can log on again.

    | bubble

    Social Media and Your Brain

    @socialmediandyourbrain

    The way social media interacts with our brain makes it inherently addictive. When you share content on social media, our brain releases dopamine, the same neurotransmitter that is released when you take addictive drugs. 1 As a result, you feel a sense of pleasure, associating social media use with positive reinforcement. Every time you receive a social media notification, you will get that same dopamine boost and may increase your social media usage to keep activating the reward center in your brain. You may rely on social media to provide rewards and connections you may not receive in real life. Over time, you can develop a psychological dependence on social media while ignoring real life interactions and interpersonal relationships.

    The Pros and Cons of Social Media Use

    Like all technologies, social media provides both benefits and drawbacks for its users. While the positive aspects may be important, healthy social media use is necessary to avoid certain emotional and behavioral consequences.

    While face-to-face contact provides benefits social media cannot, virtual platforms can help us stay connected and support our well-being. Some of the most positive aspects of social media include:

    | discover friends

    The opportunity to discover new friends and communities online

    | messenger

    The ability to stay in touch with friends and family around the world

    | emotional

    The ability to raise awareness of important issues and worthwhile causes

    | friends

    The ability to give and receive emotional support

    | video

    The opportunity to find an outlet for creativity and self-expression

    | calendar

    Access to valuable, credible information and resources

    Social media is particularly valuable in times where face-to-face interaction isn’t safe, and to people who live in remote areas, are unable to engage with others due to social anxiety, or who are part of a marginalized, disenfranchised group. However, these positive aspects can benefit anyone who uses these platforms. 

    Social media’s positive aspects may seem promising, but these platforms may have a long-term on your mental health. In addition, many people engage in dangerous or hateful activities on social media, contributing to feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation.

    Some of the most negative aspects of social media include the following.

    Feelings of Inadequacy and FOMO

    Since people tend to share only the highlights of their lives on social media, these platforms can skew our feelings about ourselves. A constant barrage of content from other people who seem to be living a better life than you do or have a more conventionally attractive appearance can impact your mental health.

    These feelings can also contribute to the fear of missing out, or FOMO. While FOMO is not a new phenomenon, seeing others enjoying events or living a more “exciting” life can trigger feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem — and may compel you to pick up the phone more often. 2

    Depression, Anxiety, and Isolation

    Face-to-face interaction is very important for our mental wellbeing. 3 Consistently prioritizing social media and digital interaction over seeing other people can exacerbate mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

    High social media usage may also increase feelings of loneliness and isolation, while less digital interaction lowers these feelings and improves your overall mental health. 4

    Cyberbullying

    Cyberbullying is a major problem on social media, with approximately 59% of American teenagers reporting that they have been bullied on these platforms. 5 From spreading rumors to leaving offensive, hurtful comments, social media can create very toxic environments.

    Signs Social Media Is Negatively Impacting You

    There are healthy and unhealthy ways to use social media. However, the nature of these platforms leaves us vulnerable to toxic environments, thoughts, and emotions. If social media is having a negative impact on your mental health and affecting your daily life, you need to seek help.

    You find yourself comparing your life

    @socialmediandyourbrain

    You find yourself comparing your life to other people’s social media posts often, and experience serious FOMO when you see others posting about their social life or accomplishments.

    You feel like you are not as successful

    @socialmediandyourbrain

    You feel like you are not as successful or as important as other people you see on social media, and you begin to think negatively about yourself due to these comparisons.

    You seek validation from social media

    @socialmediaaddiction

    You seek validation from social media, and feel sad or depressed if you do not receive as many likes or as much interaction as you expect when you post.

    You can’t stay away from social media

    @socialmediaaddiction

    You can’t stay away from social media, as much as you try to limit your use. Your social media accounts are the first thing you check in the morning, and the last thing you look at before you go to bed.

    You find it difficult to fall asleep

    @socialmediaaddiction

    You find it difficult to fall asleep at night. The blue light from phone screens interferes with our body’s circadian rhythm, which controls when we feel sleepy and alert. Scrolling through social media before bed can make it difficult for your brain to relax enough for you to fall asleep. 6

    If you experience these negative effects

    @socialmediaaddiction

    If you experience these negative effects, stepping away from social media may help improve your mental health. If you find it difficult to stop using these platforms, you may be struggling with social media addiction.

    Recognizing a Social Media Addiction

    Not all social media use constitutes addiction. Addiction occurs when you develop a tolerance and dependence on a certain substance or activity, have an uncontrollable urge to engage in the substance use or activity, and experience withdrawal when you stop.

    Certain thoughts and behaviors can help you understand whether or not you have a social media addiction.

    #1: You Experience Withdrawal Symptoms

    One of the most major indicators of social media addiction is withdrawal. People who have an addiction experience unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms when they do not engage in the substance or activity they are addicted to.

    Social media addiction is no different. If you stop using social media for a period of time or you cannot access the internet, you may experience symptoms such as anger, anxiety, or agitation. Other withdrawal symptoms include intense feelings of boredom and increased urges to use social media. 7

    #2: Social Media Is Affecting Your Responsibilities

    Healthy social media use shouldn’t impact your ability to get your work done or attend school. With social media addiction, you may use your phone in situations where you are not allowed to use it, such as during class or while performing certain jobs. 

    You might sneak to the bathroom to use social media, or spend so much time fixated on social platforms that you fail to complete your work or school assignments. As a result, you can face consequences such as disciplinary action, suspension, or even job termination.

    #3: You Lie to Others About Your Social Media Use

    People who are addicted to social media are often ashamed of how much time they spend on these platforms. You may find yourself lying to loved ones about your social media use, trying to hide the truth out of embarrassment.

    #4: You Lose Interest in Activities You Used to Love

    Social media addiction takes over a person’s life, causing them to abandon their previous interests and activities in favor of scrolling through their phones. If you stop participating in hobbies you once loved to spend time on social media, you may have an addiction.

    #5: Social Media Use Impacts Your Relationships

    People with a social media addiction often ignore their in-person relationships in favor of digital interaction. If you have an addiction, you might interrupt conversations to check your phone, withdraw from your family and friends, and experience issues in these relationships related to your social media use. You may also find it difficult to engage in in-person conversations without constantly checking your phone.

    Social Media Addiction Treatment

    Social media addiction can be a difficult problem to overcome. However, there are many treatment options available for people struggling with this problem, ranging from therapy programs to self-care activities.

    Speak to a Therapist

    Social media addiction, at its core, is a psychological problem. You may have underlying mental health conditions that are exacerbated by social media use, or you developed a negative sense of self due to what you see on social media.

    Visiting a therapist can help you better understand your social media addiction and talk through the experiences and emotions that contribute to the addiction. Your therapist can also help you develop healthy coping skills to reduce your reliance on social media and build your self-esteem.

    Commit to a Digital Detox

    This treatment option is easier said than done, but a detox from social media is necessary to help you overcome the addiction. Commit to a long-term break from social media, whether it be for a week or for a month.

    To digitally detox, delete social media apps from your phone, and ask your friends and family to call or text you if they need to get in touch. If you feel extremely bored, find another hobby or activity to keep your mind occupied such as making art, reading books, or spending time with friends and family.

    While this transition may be difficult during the first few days, it will get easier as time goes on. Eventually, you will realize you don’t need social media to feel happy, and reconnect with the hobbies and activities you once loved.

    Engage in Self-Care Activities

    When you develop an addiction to social media, you may forget to take care of yourself. In addition to finding hobbies that don’t involve social media, engaging in self-care can help promote mindfulness and improve your mental health.

    Self-care activities involve any practices that help reduce stress and enhance your holistic well-being. While digitally detoxing, try some of these stress-busting techniques:

    • Exercise. Moving your body stimulates endorphins in your brain, releasing feelings of pleasure, stress relief, and exhilaration after a workout session. 8 Engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day to reduce your stress levels.
    • Practice meditation. Just a few minutes of meditation each day can reduce anxiety and help you process difficult emotions. 9 Talk to your therapist about common meditation techniques.
    • Spend time with people you love. Social media addiction can deprive you of face-to-face interaction, and visiting with friends and family can improve your mental health. Take an hour or so each week to catch up with the people closest to you.
    • Prioritize your sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to stress, and stress is a major factor for addiction relapse. 10 Focus on getting at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, and don’t be afraid to take a nap if you feel sleepy.
    • Spend time in nature. Spending time outside can provide significant benefits to your mental health, helping you reconnect with the outside world. 11 Go on a hike, visit the beach, or take a walk in the park.
    • Practice journaling. Writing helps you unpack your emotions and stimulates creativity, which can be helpful while fighting addiction. 12 Spend a few minutes each day writing in a journal instead of going on social media.

    Limit Your Social Media Access in the Long-Term

    After engaging in a digital detox, it can be very easy to relapse back into social media addiction. However, limiting your social media access can help reduce your reliance on these platforms on a long-term basis. 

    You can follow a number of steps to reduce your social media usage.

     

    • Put yourself on a social media schedule. Commit to avoid social media while at work or school, and only check your accounts during certain times of the day, such as your lunch break.
    • Avoid using social media for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. This will help you avoid any of the negative sleep-related consequences that social media can perpetuate.
    • Only check your social media accounts on one device, such as your phone, and remove your log-in information on other electronics, like your laptop or tablet. 
    • Keep all of your social media apps in one folder on your phone away from your home screen. This will help reduce compulsively opening social media when you first unlock your phone.
    • Turn off notifications for all of your social media accounts. Notifications can compel you to check your accounts more frequently than you would otherwise.
    • Follow any tips your therapist provides regarding social media use, who you follow, and what you post. For example, your therapist may recommend you unfollow certain pages that feed into your insecurities and harm your self-esteem.

    Social media addiction can be difficult to break, but with proactive actions and professional help, you can safely detox from these platforms. If you believe you have a social media addiction, reach out to a mental health professional as soon as possible to discuss treatment options.

    Resources

    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3361411/
    2. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/cyber.2017.0609
    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5527991/
    4. https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/pdf/10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751
    5. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/09/27/a-majority-of-teens-have-experienced-some-form-of-cyberbullying/
    6. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/9/e031161
    7. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cyber.2018.0070
    8. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2010-21826-023
    9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24395196/
    10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2850945/
    11. https://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567
    12. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1556035X.2013.727735
    Table of Contents
      Add a header to begin generating the table of contents
      | Group 67

      What Is Social Media?

      | mobile bubble

      The term “social media” refers to any website or mobile application that allows users to create and share content, communicate with one another, and participate in social networking. The first social networking platforms were created in the late 1990s, with the most popular sites appearing on the internet in the early to mid-2000s.

      | mobile bubble

      Some of the most popular social media platforms today include Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. Different platforms operate in unique ways, with their own features, interface designs, and social etiquette. For example, Instagram is a primarily picture-based platform, while Twitter users must compose their content within a constraint of 280 characters or less.

      | Group 67

      What Is Social Media Addiction?

      | bubble
      | mobile bubble

      Overusing social media can be a serious problem. Social media addiction is a psychological condition that compels someone to be overly concerned about social media, spending so much time on these platforms that it impacts other aspects of their life.

       

      | mobile bubble

      If you have a social media addiction, you may feel an uncontrollable urge to log on to these sites multiple times per day. You may devote so much time and energy to post and engage with other users that you neglect to take care of yourself. In some cases, you may engage in risky behaviors in order to gain attention on social media.

      | mobile bubble

      You may also notice that you begin to use social media more and more as time goes on, developing a tolerance to your usual consumption. When you stop using social media, you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms until you can log on again.

      | bubble

      Social Media and Your Brain

      @socialmediandyourbrain

      The way social media interacts with our brain makes it inherently addictive. When you share content on social media, our brain releases dopamine, the same neurotransmitter that is released when you take addictive drugs. 1 As a result, you feel a sense of pleasure, associating social media use with positive reinforcement. Every time you receive a social media notification, you will get that same dopamine boost and may increase your social media usage to keep activating the reward center in your brain. You may rely on social media to provide rewards and connections you may not receive in real life. Over time, you can develop a psychological dependence on social media while ignoring real life interactions and interpersonal relationships.

      The Pros and Cons of Social Media Use

      Like all technologies, social media provides both benefits and drawbacks for its users. While the positive aspects may be important, healthy social media use is necessary to avoid certain emotional and behavioral consequences.

      While face-to-face contact provides benefits social media cannot, virtual platforms can help us stay connected and support our well-being. Some of the most positive aspects of social media include:

      | discover friends

      The opportunity to discover new friends and communities online

      | messenger

      The ability to stay in touch with friends and family around the world

      | emotional

      The ability to raise awareness of important issues and worthwhile causes

      | friends

      The ability to give and receive emotional support

      | video

      The opportunity to find an outlet for creativity and self-expression

      | calendar

      Access to valuable, credible information and resources

      Social media is particularly valuable in times where face-to-face interaction isn’t safe, and to people who live in remote areas, are unable to engage with others due to social anxiety, or who are part of a marginalized, disenfranchised group. However, these positive aspects can benefit anyone who uses these platforms. 

      Social media’s positive aspects may seem promising, but these platforms may have a long-term on your mental health. In addition, many people engage in dangerous or hateful activities on social media, contributing to feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation.

      Some of the most negative aspects of social media include the following.

      Feelings of Inadequacy and FOMO

      Since people tend to share only the highlights of their lives on social media, these platforms can skew our feelings about ourselves. A constant barrage of content from other people who seem to be living a better life than you do or have a more conventionally attractive appearance can impact your mental health.

      These feelings can also contribute to the fear of missing out, or FOMO. While FOMO is not a new phenomenon, seeing others enjoying events or living a more “exciting” life can trigger feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem — and may compel you to pick up the phone more often. 2

      Depression, Anxiety, and Isolation

      Face-to-face interaction is very important for our mental wellbeing. 3 Consistently prioritizing social media and digital interaction over seeing other people can exacerbate mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

      High social media usage may also increase feelings of loneliness and isolation, while less digital interaction lowers these feelings and improves your overall mental health. 4

      Cyberbullying

      Cyberbullying is a major problem on social media, with approximately 59% of American teenagers reporting that they have been bullied on these platforms. 5 From spreading rumors to leaving offensive, hurtful comments, social media can create very toxic environments.

      Signs Social Media Is Negatively Impacting You

      There are healthy and unhealthy ways to use social media. However, the nature of these platforms leaves us vulnerable to toxic environments, thoughts, and emotions. If social media is having a negative impact on your mental health and affecting your daily life, you need to seek help.

      You find yourself comparing your life

      @socialmediandyourbrain

      You find yourself comparing your life to other people’s social media posts often, and experience serious FOMO when you see others posting about their social life or accomplishments.

      You feel like you are not as successful

      @socialmediandyourbrain

      You feel like you are not as successful or as important as other people you see on social media, and you begin to think negatively about yourself due to these comparisons.

      You seek validation from social media

      @socialmediaaddiction

      You seek validation from social media, and feel sad or depressed if you do not receive as many likes or as much interaction as you expect when you post.

      You can’t stay away from social media

      @socialmediaaddiction

      You can’t stay away from social media, as much as you try to limit your use. Your social media accounts are the first thing you check in the morning, and the last thing you look at before you go to bed.

      You find it difficult to fall asleep

      @socialmediaaddiction

      You find it difficult to fall asleep at night. The blue light from phone screens interferes with our body’s circadian rhythm, which controls when we feel sleepy and alert. Scrolling through social media before bed can make it difficult for your brain to relax enough for you to fall asleep. 6

      If you experience these negative effects

      @socialmediaaddiction

      If you experience these negative effects, stepping away from social media may help improve your mental health. If you find it difficult to stop using these platforms, you may be struggling with social media addiction.

      Recognizing a Social Media Addiction

      Not all social media use constitutes addiction. Addiction occurs when you develop a tolerance and dependence on a certain substance or activity, have an uncontrollable urge to engage in the substance use or activity, and experience withdrawal when you stop.

      Certain thoughts and behaviors can help you understand whether or not you have a social media addiction.

      #1: You Experience Withdrawal Symptoms

      One of the most major indicators of social media addiction is withdrawal. People who have an addiction experience unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms when they do not engage in the substance or activity they are addicted to.

      Social media addiction is no different. If you stop using social media for a period of time or you cannot access the internet, you may experience symptoms such as anger, anxiety, or agitation. Other withdrawal symptoms include intense feelings of boredom and increased urges to use social media. 7

      #2: Social Media Is Affecting Your Responsibilities

      Healthy social media use shouldn’t impact your ability to get your work done or attend school. With social media addiction, you may use your phone in situations where you are not allowed to use it, such as during class or while performing certain jobs. 

      You might sneak to the bathroom to use social media, or spend so much time fixated on social platforms that you fail to complete your work or school assignments. As a result, you can face consequences such as disciplinary action, suspension, or even job termination.

      #3: You Lie to Others About Your Social Media Use

      People who are addicted to social media are often ashamed of how much time they spend on these platforms. You may find yourself lying to loved ones about your social media use, trying to hide the truth out of embarrassment.

      #4: You Lose Interest in Activities You Used to Love

      Social media addiction takes over a person’s life, causing them to abandon their previous interests and activities in favor of scrolling through their phones. If you stop participating in hobbies you once loved to spend time on social media, you may have an addiction.

      #5: Social Media Use Impacts Your Relationships

      People with a social media addiction often ignore their in-person relationships in favor of digital interaction. If you have an addiction, you might interrupt conversations to check your phone, withdraw from your family and friends, and experience issues in these relationships related to your social media use. You may also find it difficult to engage in in-person conversations without constantly checking your phone.

      Social Media Addiction Treatment

      Social media addiction can be a difficult problem to overcome. However, there are many treatment options available for people struggling with this problem, ranging from therapy programs to self-care activities.

      Speak to a Therapist

      Social media addiction, at its core, is a psychological problem. You may have underlying mental health conditions that are exacerbated by social media use, or you developed a negative sense of self due to what you see on social media.

      Visiting a therapist can help you better understand your social media addiction and talk through the experiences and emotions that contribute to the addiction. Your therapist can also help you develop healthy coping skills to reduce your reliance on social media and build your self-esteem.

      Commit to a Digital Detox

      This treatment option is easier said than done, but a detox from social media is necessary to help you overcome the addiction. Commit to a long-term break from social media, whether it be for a week or for a month.

      To digitally detox, delete social media apps from your phone, and ask your friends and family to call or text you if they need to get in touch. If you feel extremely bored, find another hobby or activity to keep your mind occupied such as making art, reading books, or spending time with friends and family.

      While this transition may be difficult during the first few days, it will get easier as time goes on. Eventually, you will realize you don’t need social media to feel happy, and reconnect with the hobbies and activities you once loved.

      Engage in Self-Care Activities

      When you develop an addiction to social media, you may forget to take care of yourself. In addition to finding hobbies that don’t involve social media, engaging in self-care can help promote mindfulness and improve your mental health.

      Self-care activities involve any practices that help reduce stress and enhance your holistic well-being. While digitally detoxing, try some of these stress-busting techniques:

      • Exercise. Moving your body stimulates endorphins in your brain, releasing feelings of pleasure, stress relief, and exhilaration after a workout session. 8 Engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day to reduce your stress levels.
      • Practice meditation. Just a few minutes of meditation each day can reduce anxiety and help you process difficult emotions. 9 Talk to your therapist about common meditation techniques.
      • Spend time with people you love. Social media addiction can deprive you of face-to-face interaction, and visiting with friends and family can improve your mental health. Take an hour or so each week to catch up with the people closest to you.
      • Prioritize your sleep. Sleep deprivation can lead to stress, and stress is a major factor for addiction relapse. 10 Focus on getting at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, and don’t be afraid to take a nap if you feel sleepy.
      • Spend time in nature. Spending time outside can provide significant benefits to your mental health, helping you reconnect with the outside world. 11 Go on a hike, visit the beach, or take a walk in the park.
      • Practice journaling. Writing helps you unpack your emotions and stimulates creativity, which can be helpful while fighting addiction. 12 Spend a few minutes each day writing in a journal instead of going on social media.

      Limit Your Social Media Access in the Long-Term

      After engaging in a digital detox, it can be very easy to relapse back into social media addiction. However, limiting your social media access can help reduce your reliance on these platforms on a long-term basis. 

      You can follow a number of steps to reduce your social media usage.

      • Put yourself on a social media schedule. Commit to avoid social media while at work or school, and only check your accounts during certain times of the day, such as your lunch break.
      • Avoid using social media for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. This will help you avoid any of the negative sleep-related consequences that social media can perpetuate.
      • Only check your social media accounts on one device, such as your phone, and remove your log-in information on other electronics, like your laptop or tablet. 
      • Keep all of your social media apps in one folder on your phone away from your home screen. This will help reduce compulsively opening social media when you first unlock your phone.
      • Turn off notifications for all of your social media accounts. Notifications can compel you to check your accounts more frequently than you would otherwise.
      • Follow any tips your therapist provides regarding social media use, who you follow, and what you post. For example, your therapist may recommend you unfollow certain pages that feed into your insecurities and harm your self-esteem.

      Social media addiction can be difficult to break, but with proactive actions and professional help, you can safely detox from these platforms. If you believe you have a social media addiction, reach out to a mental health professional as soon as possible to discuss treatment options.

      Resources

      1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
        pmc/articles/PMC3361411/
      2. https://www.liebertpub.com
        /doi/10.1089/cyber.2017.0609
      3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
        pmc/articles/PMC5527991/
      4. https://guilfordjournals.com/
        doi/pdf/10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751
      5. https://www.pewresearch.org/
        internet/2018/09/27/a-majority-of-teens-have-experienced-some-form-of-cyberbullying/
      6. https://bmjopen.bmj.com
        /content/9/9/e031161
      7. https://www.liebertpub.com
        /doi/abs/10.1089/cyber.2018.0070
      8. https://psycnet.apa.org
        /record/2010-21826-023
      9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
        24395196/
      10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
        pmc/articles/PMC2850945/
      11. https://www.pnas.org/
        content/112/28/8567
      12. https://www.tandfonline.com/
        doi/abs/10.1080/1556035X.2013.727735