The recent popular Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma examines our relationship with social media that has resulted in social media addiction, featuring interviews with tech experts who have worked everywhere from Facebook to YouTube to Pinterest.
Their message is clear: social media is having an increasingly damaging impact on humanity.
We live in an era where constant technological marvels, engineering feats and scientific breakthroughs are being made almost every day. With these advancements, daily activities that were once ideals of science fiction are now realities. Within our pockets, we grasp smartphones and other devices that provide the convenience of constant connectedness through the Internet. We are able to contact family, friends, colleagues, and strangers through various social media platforms in a matter of seconds. Closing the gap of a 2,000-mile distance within a few seconds. Faster Internet speeds and more Internet access is being expanded across the globe. We now have approximately 4.021 billion people using the Internet worldwide.
In many ways, social media has enriched our lives by connecting and inspiring people. But there is a dark side as well. Recent studies indicate that excessive social media use has led to poor decision-making. This has now evolved to cyberbullying due to negative posts on social media. Additionally, people who use social media incessantly often have attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors that mimic those of a drug addict.
Checking and scrolling through social media has become an increasingly popular activity over the last decade. Although the majority of peoples’ use of social media is non-problematic, there is a small percentage of users that become addicted to social networking sites. This in turn leads to engaging in excessive or compulsive use.
Social media has become so ingrained in our culture, that it’s easy to forget that it hasn’t been around for very long.
It’s so new that, Joseph Rock, PsyD, says the research is just emerging on how our behaviors surrounding social media could be measured against standards for being diagnosed as an addiction.
He says one of the pitfalls of social media is that, for some, it can produce feelings that keep them coming back for more.
What is social media addiction?
Whether you use social media to connect with friends and loved ones, watch videos, or simply “kill time,” the popularity of this pastime has increased significantly over the last decade.
Like other types of behavioral addictions, using social media can influence your brain in harmful ways. You may use social media compulsively and excessively. You can become so accustomed to scrolling through posts, images, and videos that it interferes with other areas of your life.
Not everyone who uses social media will develop an addiction. Since this activity is becoming more accessible to more people, though, more people may develop an addiction to social media at some point in their lives.
Characterization of Social Media Addiction
Social media addiction is a behavioral addiction. It is characterized as being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use social media. Subsequently devoting so much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas.
Addictive social media use will look much like that of any other substance use disorder. This triggers symptoms including mood modification (i.e., engagement in social media leads to a favorable change in emotional states), salience (i.e., behavioral, cognitive, and emotional preoccupation with social media), tolerance (i.e., ever increasing use of social media over time), withdrawal symptoms (i.e., experiencing unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms when social media use is restricted or stopped), conflict (i.e., interpersonal problems ensue because of social media usage), and relapse (i.e., addicted individuals quickly revert back to their excessive social media usage after an abstinence period).
The phenomena of social media addiction can largely be contributed to the dopamine-inducing social environments that social networking sites provide. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram produce the same neural circuitry that is caused by gambling and recreational drugs. Keeping consumers using their products as much as possible. Studies have shown that the constant stream of retweets, likes, and shares from these sites have affected the brain’s reward area to trigger the same kind of chemical reaction as other drugs, such as cocaine. In fact, neuroscientists have compared social media interaction to a syringe of dopamine being injected straight into the system.
Signs of Social Media Addiction
Social media is just as addictive as drugs, alcohol, or gambling. Being addicted to Facebook and Instagram may seem harmless at first, but it can have significant unforeseen consequences. Suddenly you feel depressed, unproductive and downright irritable, all because of the world within your phone.
How do you know you are addicted to or starting to get addicted to social media?
1. The first thing you do in the morning is check your social media pages and late night right until going to bed.
2. You are anxious when you cannot check your social media
3. You are constantly checking how your posts are performing
4. Spend a lot of time planning and overthinking your posts
5. You neglect your own hobbies
6. Rarely put your phone down
7. Become irritated or annoyed when without battery, internet or signal
Here are ways you can disengage from these trends and beat your social media addiction
You should engage in a digital detox. A period of time during which someone significantly reduces the time spent or abstains from using electronic devices such smartphones or computers. This allows for a restored focus on social interaction in the physical world and reduces dependency on networking sites.
1. Turn off your notifications
We’re constantly drawn to our phones with every sound, buzz or flash from the notifications light. You might have developed an addiction for social media because you are constantly getting notifications on your phone. From your friends commenting or posting on your wall. One of the easiest ways to reduce your time spent on social media is to turn off notifications on apps that trigger an insatiable urge to check for updates. When you stop notifications from disturbing your normal routine, you might find it easier to concentrate on your daily tasks and not get distracted so easily. Notifications are a constant reminder that something is happening in the online world and you might feel like you’re missing out.
2. Limit yourself
Use an actual timer to indicate when your browsing time is up. Set a timer on your watch or phone, to limit the amount of time you spend on social media. Choose a limit depending on the severity of your addiction and whenever you check your accounts, start your timer going.
3. Get a new hobby
You may have a lot more free time on your hands now that you’re trying to cut down on your social media usage. So why not pick up a new hobby to fill your spare time? You could learn a new skill or do something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. If you decide to fill your former social media time with a new activity, like say reading, painting, cooking, bowling, swimming, running, or shopping. It will take a few weeks for the new habit to set in. It’s totally normal to sit down to read and feel the urge to check social media for a while. But, it’s best to commit to your routine and try not to break it. These are healthy and fun ways to combat your addiction while relaxing.
4. Check in with family and friends
Instead of keeping up-to-date with your friends’ and family members’ lives through their social posts, shoot them a text or give them a call. You might find that your social media addiction developed because you used a site to communicate with someone as opposed to calling them. Face-to-face time is more powerful than anything you say over social media. Call up your friends and go out to a movie or have dinner.
5. Delete Apps you don’t use
The first step in kicking a social media addiction is to consolidate your devices and delete all the platforms you don’t use. A common chorus among experts in The Social Dilemma was to uninstall apps you aren’t using often. Haven’t checked Twitter in months? Take it off your phone. It’ll remove the temptation, the notifications, and the temptation to scroll mindlessly. Not being able to see the apps on your home screen may help you during this time of self-reflection and habit-breaking.
6. Go cold turkey
Depending on how bad things are, it might be time to go cold turkey. If you’re spending more time on social media than you are interacting with people in real life, give yourself a reality check by having a holiday from social media. First, decide how long it’s going to be. Secondly, inform your friends online how long you’ll be away and how they can reach you if they need you in person, and delete your apps.
Sometimes this can be easier said than done. Making small commitments in a gradual weaning process could be a better approach. These might include declaring a 30-minute social media timeout while at work, or setting aside an entire day as a social media blackout. It might even be as simple as limiting yourself to checking your phone during your morning coffee break.
Social media has tremendous potential for good. We shouldn’t forget how much these platforms have enriched our lives by allowing us to stay in touch with or reconnect with family and friends. They have also become a powerful platform for connecting with strangers to make an impact in the world. In many ways, social media has enriched our lives by connecting and inspiring people. But there is a dark side as well. We can never completely eliminate all harm. However, we can utilize social media to maximize the benefits of this new medium, to create a strong net positive.