Signs of Social Media Addiction

It might have crossed your mind that you, or someone you know ‘has a problem’ with social media. Social media overuse is increasingly commonplace today and may have some serious repercussions on your physical and mental health…

Signs of Social Media Addiction

In the US, the Addiction Center defines it as: a behavioural addiction that is defined by being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use social media, and devoting so much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas.

Psychologists estimate that as many as 5 to 10% of Americans meet the criteria for social media addiction today. Addictive social media use will look much like any other substance use disorder. The Addiction Center suggests the following signs may help to determine if someone is suffering from a Social Media addiction:

1. Has virtual socialising come to replace face-to-face interaction in your life, or have you come to prefer the former over the latter?
2. Do you begin to feel negative emotions either while using social media or when attempting to cut down or stop social media use?
3. Have you experienced the fallout of excessive social media use in your life, but persist in the activity anyway?
4. Could your use of social media be described as obsessive?
5. Does social media provide an undue sense of importance or meaning to your life?
6. After a period of abstaining from social media use, do you find yourself returning to social media in the same way an abuser of drugs or alcohol may be unable to stay away from their substance of choice?

An affirmative answer to even one of the questions above may indicate social media addiction. Answering yes to 3 or more could mean the problem has become severe. Of course, every individual and every social media platform is different, but if the underlying trend lines of compulsion have become apparent, it’s time to take action to regain control of your life and of your relationship with the technology.

Why Covid hasn’t helped

In some cases, social media can be a welcome distraction if you’re isolated due to work, an illness, or a pandemic. The more you engage, the more your brain will tell you that this is an activity that can help reduce loneliness (although that may not necessarily be the case).

The downsides of social media addiction

Engaging with social media occasionally is unlikely to be harmful but overusing it is another story and may include the following possible downsides:

Low self-esteem

Self-esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves. It’s based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves, which can feel difficult to change. We might also think of it as self-confidence. Low self-esteem may be prompted by the distorted perception that others’ lives are “better” than yours.

Isolation and loneliness

Multiple Studies suggest a link between time spent using social media and loneliness. According to a new survey of 20,000 Americans sponsored by The Cigna Health Insurance Company, loneliness is at epidemic proportions.

Anxiety, depression & mental illness

Roughly a quarter of British adults have been diagnosed at some point with a psychiatric disorder. Such illnesses have many causes, but a growing body of research demonstrates that in young people they are linked with heavy consumption of social media.

Is Social Media use linked to social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is the second most common anxiety disorder. It affects approximately 12.1% of U.S. adults at some point.

FOMO & social media

FOMO or fear of missing out, describes the nagging feeling that other people may be experiencing something fun and awesome but that you are missing out on it. There’s mounting evidence that social media is the cause.

Social media, youth and disrupted sleep patterns

Research supports the common observation that young people are always on their phones. Around 95% of adolescents have access to a smartphone and, not surprisingly, around 45% report being online “almost constantly”.

Social media use tied to poor physical health

Research participants who used social media excessively were found to have higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a biological marker of chronic inflammation that predicts serious illnesses, such as diabetes, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease.

Students who are heavy social media users tend to have lower grades

31% of teens say that using social media during homework reduces the quality of their work. Students who used social media had an average GPA (Grade Point Average) of 3.06 while non-users had an average GPA of 3.82.

How social media impedes empathy

Every human being possesses a trait called empathy which allows us to account for another person’s feelings, emotions, or experiences. Without empathy, it would be difficult to uphold a successful community for communication, cooperation, love and compassion would not exist.

Why social media is so addicting

I explain the mechanism behind why social media is so addictive in another blog called Social Media Addiction in Teens but what causes the addiction is exactly the same in adults.

Stress, self-esteem and where to find help

Social media provides an almost voyeuristic look into everyone’s life which has the effect of incentivising maximum curation and reputation editing. Often, the result is to make other people’s lives seem much more exciting and alluring than yours. This can severely take advantage of people’s sense of social competitiveness and belonging, often making them feel outclassed, or less attractive.

Need Help?

If you or your school or organisation need help in changing your own or your school or organisation’s relationship with social media, please see this page. You can also contact me directly by clicking the Get in Touch link at the top of the aforementioned page.

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