I've been an avid social media user for as long as I can remember. It all started around 2004, when I need to learn how to market my first products.
I remember just after college a roommate of mind having a "blog" and writing about his life online. I thought it was strange. Then everything in Web 2.0 exploded.
I had an AOL email address at age 16 and joined Facebook when it first launched in 2004. Nowadays, online social networking is the norm.
A lot of my life is documented on these sites—but at what cost? How did we get here?
Are we addicted? And what can we do about it? This guide will provide you with all the answers, including my personal story of overcoming social media addiction and how you can do the same.
When you think of digital addiction, you might picture someone sitting at a computer all day, unable to tear themself away from the screen.
Maybe that person is playing an online game, slobbering over porno, gambling on horse races, or watching cat videos on YouTube.
It could be more serious than that—maybe they've fallen into an online relationship and can't stop thinking about their partner.
What if I told you there was another kind of digital addiction?
One that has nothing to do with the internet or social media platforms?
What if I told you there were people who couldn't get through a single day without checking their smartphones every five minutes?
They'd check again before bed and again when they woke up in the morning, then again when they got home from work.
They'd check while walking down the street and while eating dinner with friends and family members.
And even though they know it's bad for them—even though they know they're hurting themselves by doing so—they just can't help themselves because it feels like an integral part of their lives now.
The relationship between social media addiction and smartphone addiction is a complex one, as smartphones are often used as the primary device to access social media.
Social media addiction can exacerbate smartphone addiction by increasing the amount of time spent on the phone, and by making it harder to put the phone down, as people may compulsively check for notifications, updates, and new content on social media.
It is important to note that, while social media and smartphones have many benefits, it is important to be mindful of the potential negative effects that can occur with excessive use. Being aware of one's own usage patterns and taking steps to reduce excessive use can help prevent addiction.
This is where we are with all these social media apps...How did we get here?
As you know, social media has been around for a long time.
It’s been around in some form or another since the late ‘90s. As with anything else, it has evolved over time and its usage has changed too.
The way we use social media also changed considerably over the years.
It was once intended to be used as a place where people could discover new things and stay connected with friends and loved ones they were far away from.
This is still true today, but nowadays we tend to use it in new ways: we post pictures of ourselves daily; we keep an eye on what everyone else is doing; we watch funny videos that others make; we comment on those posts (or don’t).
What is Social Media Addiction?
As it turns out, social media addiction is a very real thing.
However, it is not a clinical diagnosis and does not feature on any list of mental health conditions.
NOTE: Social media addiction is a behavioral addiction. Treating social media addiction may necessitate professional intervention if the person is not actively acknowledging addictive behaviors.
For those with mental health challenges, it is not helping.
Social media addiction is defined by the amount of time spent on social media, but again this definition can vary from person to person.
The term "addiction" has historically been reserved for substances that are ingested into the body—alcohol or drugs such as cocaine—but there's nothing magical about social media that makes it immune to being classified as addictive if you spend too much time on it!
Some might reasonably argue that Tik Tok is a digital form of Crack, but let's not go there just yet!
This doesn't mean everyone who spends hours scrolling through Instagram will become an addict; in fact, most people won't experience any negative side effects at all.
But for some people spending time on their phones can have serious consequences both personally and professionally if left unchecked!
The Psychological Effects of Social Media Addiction
Social media addiction can have a significant impact on your physical, mental and emotional health.
If you're thinking about quitting social media, but are worried about the consequences of doing so, this section will help you understand the possible effects of pulling back from social media addiction.
As time goes on, we've seen more research into how excessive use of smartphones and other devices might be affecting our brains.
One study conducted by University College London found that using phones at night causes changes to brain chemistry similar to those associated with drug abuse.
Another study by UCLA revealed that too much screen time can cause depression in teens by disrupting their sleep patterns (see below).
What are the social media effects? Is Social Media Addictive?
Social media addiction is a real thing, as are many other forms of internet addiction.
Studies have shown that social media can be just as addictive as gambling or alcohol. You know you're addicted to social media when you:
Spend more than 2 hours a day on your phone
Check your phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night
Feel anxious if you don't check your phone for several hours
Social media is not just a mental health issue; it's also a public health issue. Teen social media addiction is on the rise. It affects people of all ages, from young children to adults and senior citizens.
Social network users repeat some of the same behaviors of echo chambers and polarization.
The World Health Organization now recognizes “gaming disorder” as an official mental health condition, which includes excessive use of video games and online gaming (1).
Social media addiction is similar in that it can interfere with relationships and other aspects of daily life. Once too many of us start ignoring real-life relationships, we're seriously in trouble.
Problematic social media use can leave us in a dark place.
What are some signs that your social media use may be out of control?
There are a number of signs that your social media use may be out of control.
If you notice yourself spending more time on social media than you do with your friends and family, if you feel a sense of relief when you log onto social media, or if you feel like you need to check it frequently, then your use has become an addiction.
You may also find that it's hard for you to concentrate or focus on other things while using social media if the habit has become too strong.
It's important to realize that these signs are not always negative; they can also indicate that someone is using social media in moderation and enjoying themselves while doing so.
However, if these behaviors seem excessive or problematic for any reason (for example, they make it difficult for a person to participate fully in their life), then it may be time for them to take action towards improving their relationship with technology as well as their overall mental health.
What is the impact of social media usage on mental health?
Social media can be a source of stress and anxiety. Not surprisingly, the more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to experience these negative emotions.
Social media can create feelings of loneliness.
Although social networking sites are meant to increase our sense of connection with others, they often have the opposite effect: they lead us to compare ourselves unfavorably with others who seem happier or more successful than we feel we are in our own lives.
The resulting feelings of inadequacy may contribute to increased levels of depression and anxiety over time – especially among young people who use social media frequently but don't necessarily know how best to navigate it responsibly (which is important).
Social media use may be addictive for some users.
This is true, particularly when it comes at the expense of other daily activities like work or schoolwork (for young people) or spending quality time with family members or friends (for adults).
People who struggle with addiction are encouraged by their loved ones not only because they want them around longer but also because an addict's behavior affects everyone else negatively as well—a problem that becomes magnified when that person operates under faulty assumptions about what constitutes healthy behavior online versus what doesn't."
can include anxiety, depression, and changes in the brain related to addiction. Studies have shown that excessive smartphone use is associated with decreased gray matter in the anterior cingulate cortex, a brain region involved in decision-making and impulse control.
The psychological effects of social media addiction can include depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Studies have shown that excessive social media use is associated with decreased mood, increased feelings of loneliness and isolation, and negative body image.
Social media use has also been linked to increased feelings of anxiety and depression, as people may compare themselves to others, especially in terms of their physical appearance, social status, and life accomplishments.
How do social media platforms affect relationships with others?
Social media can be a great way to connect with others, but it can also be used as a way of avoiding real-life interactions.
Low self-esteem can have a negative impact on many social media users.
If you think that your social media usage might be negatively affecting your relationships with others, consider these traits of excessive social media use:
When you are constantly on your phone or computer, other people may feel left out in the conversation since they cannot get their point across as well as they would like. This can lead to feelings of resentment and distance between friends and family members.
The more time spent on social media, the less time spent actually interacting with people in person. Many people who suffer from addiction show signs of social withdrawal due to excessive use of their devices.
In some cases, people will post negative comments about themselves on social media sites because they feel insecure about how they look or feel about themselves when compared to what others see online (or "online"). These types of negative comparisons can lead someone who is already feeling down about himself or herself into feeling even worse about his or her appearance before looking at anything else—even if it isn't true!
How to Treat Social Media Addiction And The Mental Health Challenges
Diagnosis of social media addiction is typically done through self-report questionnaires, such as the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale, which measures the level of problematic use and associated symptoms.
The social effects of social media addiction can include decreased face-to-face communication, as individuals may spend less time engaging in in-person interactions and more time on social media.
Additionally, social media addiction can lead to distorted body image, as people may compare themselves to others, particularly in terms of physical appearance. Social media addiction can also exacerbate feelings of social isolation, as people may feel left out of the lives of others, and may not receive the social support they need.
If you're struggling with social media addiction, the first step to recovery is to break the cycle.
I gradually broke my social media habits by trading them for my writing habit, and gradually avoiding social media.
There are many ways to go about the process, and I have written extensively about Digital Detoxes.
You may be able to help yourself by choosing to spend less time on social media, finding other activities that you enjoy, and setting realistic goals for how much time you want to spend on social media each day.
If your current situation is causing problems in your life or relationships, it's important that you create a plan for how you will achieve your goals.
It is also important to seek professional help if needed. A therapist or counselor can help individuals to understand the underlying causes of their addiction and can provide strategies for managing and overcoming it.
Lastly, reflect on your own use of smartphones and social media and be mindful of the potential negative effects. By being aware of one's own usage patterns and taking steps to reduce excessive use, you can prevent addiction and maintain a healthy balance.
To help prevent relapse and keep yourself on track:
Choose specific times of day when you're going to use social media instead of letting yourself get sucked into it whenever possible (e.g., if I'm going out tonight then I'll check my phone right before leaving).
Create "rules" within the app itself (e.g., no checking notifications after work).
Put phones away when they aren't being used (or turn them off entirely if needed).
By following these steps, you can better yourself and your relationships, both offline and online.
This is a guide to breaking free from the chains of social media addiction.
But it's not just about how to use social media more responsibly; it's also about how to better yourself as a person, and in turn, how you can strengthen your relationships with others.
Social media is a tool, not a crutch.
It shouldn't be used as an escape from real life or as an excuse to avoid real-world interactions with other people who are right in front of us (or at least nearby).
If we're overusing our phones, tablets, and computers in order to avoid having meaningful conversations with our loved ones or even strangers who are around us—at work or on public transportation—then we're robbing ourselves of valuable opportunities for connection and learning that could enrich our lives immeasurably.
My hope is that by reading this guide, you’ve learned how to better manage your social media use.
Remember that it is a constant process of self-improvement, and there is no one right way to do it.
If you need help along the way, don’t hesitate to call on your friends or seek professional help from someone who can assist you with your specific needs.
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