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While social media has many positives – connecting, inspiring, and supporting people – using it too much can lead to adverse outcomes. Some go as far as to compare the addictive effects of social media to drug addiction. Studies have concluded that using social media too much can mimic drug addicts in the way users think and behave.
Social media addiction is a very real and serious problem in our society today. If left unchecked, it could lead to significant mental health issues, stress, relationship problems, and more. Throughout this article, we’re going to specifically explore how social media gets its hooks into us and what we can do to break free and live healthier, more productive lives.
It’s easy to pull out our phones, open an app, and look up an hour later, wondering where the time has gone. But does that mean we’re addicted to social media?
Social media addiction is engaging in the compulsive or excessive use of social networking sites. It’s a form of behavioral addiction, which could harm your brain.
Addiction Center defines it as “being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to log onto or use social media, and devoting too much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas.”
Addictions operate on what’s called a “variable-reward system.” Someone has an opportunity to get a reward that makes them feel good (e.g., comments and likes) when they do something. But they’re not guaranteed this reward, and they don’t know exactly when it will occur.
When we receive this “reward,” we get a shot of dopamine in our brains, also known as the feel-good hormone. The more we get this feeling from social media, the more often we want to check it. It’s the same neural circuitry that drugs and gambling can cause to keep people coming back for more.
But there’s some good news. Fortunately, there’s a vital difference between drug and social media addictions. Substance abuse may impair users’ self-control, making it very difficult to break an addiction. With social media, most people would reduce or stop their use if they had strong enough motivation.
Unfortunately, younger people – whose brains are still developing – can face much greater problems than adults. Overstimulation may structurally change their brains (California State University).
Social media can become physically and psychologically addictive. When something activates the neurons in the dopamine-producing parts of our brains, our dopamine levels rise. We then associate a specific activity (like checking social media or getting a “like” on Facebook) with positive reinforcement (Addiction Center). We feel pleasure, which can rewire our brains to desire those feelings through social platform engagement.
Addictive social media use can lead to several health and relationship problems, similar to other behavioral addictions.
Here are some signs of social media addiction in children, teens, and adults.
If you’re embarrassed about how much time you spend on social media, it may lead you to lie to those in your life when they question you about it. This can be a sign of addiction.
Have you or someone you know used social media to cope with loneliness, stress, or boredom? Some people begin relying on social media to cope with social anxiety, fear, or other uncomfortable feelings. When really, we should be facing our fears and discomfort to build relationships with the people around us.
Needing to feel validation, craving to belong, and feeling inadequate or unworthy can lead to severe mental health issues. Studies have found that social media may be connected to lower self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and fear.
Is social media negatively impacting your daily life in any way? If it interrupts your work or in-person conversations, you may be spending too much time online. If you find yourself skipping activities you used to enjoy to turn your attention to social media, consider it a red flag.
If you find yourself tuning out of conversations or withdrawing from friends and family to spend time on your phone or computer, you may be addicted.
If you reduce your use of social media and experience feelings of irritability or restlessness, you may be fighting an addiction. The same goes if you feel anger or agitation when you can’t check your accounts when you’d like.
Here are some solutions and ideas to help you break free from social media addiction or overuse.
Just kidding. Sort of.
Many of us spend way too much time online scrolling, swiping, and hitting that cute little heart on Instagram. If we want to take social media overuse seriously, we need to start by getting a high-level look at where we are now.
How many apps do you use regularly? How much time do you spend on social media in general? Start by being open and honest with yourself, and then go from there.
You can take this as far as you want to. Make it as simple as turning off your app notifications on your phone or only checking social media once per day. Maybe you decide only to check your accounts on weekends. Or perhaps you take it a step further and take a one-month break from social media. A detox can help you recommit to plans, build up your relationships, and refocus on what’s right in front of you.
We already touched on this one, but managing your notifications is one of the best ways to reduce your desire to open an app. You can turn off notifications for social media entirely through your phone settings. That way, you won’t be tempted to open an app every time you receive a like, message, or other notification.
Did you know there are apps for tracking phone and social media usage? You may even have one built into your phone that you can access via your settings. Knowing how much time you’re spending online could be a good wake-up call. What time can you add back into your days by reducing your social media usage?
Maybe it’s time to buy that gym membership you’ve been eyeing or sign up for a class you’re interested in. Find a hobby that doesn’t involve using technology, like sports, art, hiking, or cooking.
Setting rules for yourself and your kids (if you have them) is a great way to limit usage. It also sets a good example for those who look up to you.
Maybe you decide to turn off your personal phone throughout the workday. Or perhaps you set a rule for your family that no one can use their phones during dinner and on Sundays. Finding a good balance can help you form a healthier relationship with social media.
If you know you’re addicted to social media and it’s affecting your life, the best solution may be to delete the apps from your phone entirely. If you want to get super serious, you can deactivate your accounts or delete them for good.
Now, we know we just covered a serious and somewhat depressing topic. But that doesn’t mean social media is all bad by any means. In fact, it can be really good for businesses and consumers alike. It can facilitate amazing connections, educate, and inspire. It can also help businesses boost their bottom line. That’s what we focus on here at Kubbco.
If you’re ready to hand your brand’s social media to an experienced, forward-thinking team, we’d love to hear from you! Kubbco is a social media marketing agency working in Europe and the U.S. Our brilliant team of creatives, managers, and strategists will take our business to the next level – in a healthy, productive, and innovative way.
Contact our team to get started!