If you are overusing social media, you might suffer from social addiction. Find out what happens when you depend on your electronics too much.
We are spending a lot of hours on social media –more than ever before– and this has an enormous impact on our mental and physical health.
What is social media addiction?
Social media addiction is a type of behavioral addiction where a person feels the urge to repeatedly take part in certain behaviors regardless of the negative consequences to their well-being. Smoking, drug and alcohol abuse and gambling are types of behavioral addictions.
Many people use social media to stay in touch with their friends and relatives and to stay up-to-date with the news, but when does this use become problematic or stats to show a dysfunctional pattern?
- Experiencing a compulsion to use social media and getting intense feelings of frustration when you are not engaged in it.
- Focusing on the attention your content is receiving and experiencing anxiety if you are missing something.
- When social media occupies most of your time and thought even when you are not using it.
- Feeling anxious when you cannot access social media for whatever reason –your battery has run out, there is no internet available– and you go out of the way to stay online.
- Social media is affecting your work.
- Checking your phone every time you hear a notification.
- Checking your accounts first thing in the morning and right before going to bed.
- Not having many other interests apart from social networks.
This addiction is mostly driven by the dopamine system –this system plays a major role in motivating behavior by making us desire things. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released when we exercise, have sex, eat the kind of food that we like and when we have successful social interactions.
Dopamine delivers a rewarding feeling which makes us want to do it again, the problem is when we develop tolerance to it, thus we need to do it more frequently and for longer periods to get a similar effect.
Big tech companies predict the type of content you are interested in and slowly predict and influence your behaviors and thoughts and keep you scrolling for longer.
The areas associated with social media addiction are the same associated with drug abuse and it might lead to craving, urges and desires to be liked on social media.
Children and young adults are at a higher risk as their frontal cortex is not yet fully developed –this has a huge impact on the dopamine reward system. For teenagers having at least one social media account seems to be a must, so peer pressure plays a big role if you don’t want to feel left out. Adults who depend on their phones because of their work or because they rely on social media as a means of interaction are negatively affected when they receive negative feedback online.
How to stop social media addiction
If social media makes you feel extremely anxious, make sure to contact a therapist. There are, however, some measures you can take to reduce the amount of time you spend on social media:
- Check how much time you spend on your phone and decipher what applications you use the most. Most phones have a built-in tracker that will tell you that information and you can even set a limit for your social media.
- Plan some time when you won’t log on or look at your social media accounts.
- Turn notifications off
- Make plans
- Try meeting friends, doing exercise, meditating, any activity that doesn’t require spending time on screen.
Always make sure to consult an expert if none of these strategies work.
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