Most individuals who hear the word “addiction” relate the word to substance abuse or gambling. However, one of the fastest growing addictions in today’s society is people’s addiction to technology – specifically, social media.
The addiction stems from two different causes: the brains love of social media notifications, and the fact that social media gives people a sense of self-worth.
First let’s take a look at how your brain responds to social media notifications. A recent article released by Talkspace outlined the effects of social media on an individual’s brain. According to the article, social media users appear to develop symptoms similar to substance-abuse addictions, such as “salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, relapse, and conflict with regards to behavior addictions.’” Individuals treat notifications as their high – interacting to get new ones. Dr. Rachel O’Neil, an Ohio-Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor identified that “by definition, social media sites are designed to be addictive. The very nature of scrolling impacts our mental health. It’s hard for anything to compete with the constant high that comes from checking new posts, getting new likes, or being retweeted. Virtually every aspect of social media is designed to activate the pleasure centers of the brain.”
There is also a connection between social media engagement and an individual’s sense of self-worth. They start to gauge their level of self-worth by the amount of “likes” and validating comments on their social media pages. Instead of focusing on developing intimate relationships within the world around them, social media “addicts” expend their energy online, building a false persona in order to develop online relationships. Many individuals even commit themselves to becoming influencers; some are successful, however thousands others are met with hurt and sadness because of their limited following. If you’re not an addict, you can recognize that this does not define a person’s self-worth. Those stuck in the world of social media, however, relate this failure with the idea that they are not worthy. Unfortunately, these behaviors can lead to symptoms of a mental health illness, such as anxiety and/or depression.
The Dangers of Social Media Addiction
Just like any other addiction, social media addiction introduces new problems into an individual’s life. The momentary high is followed by difficult feelings, such as sadness, pain, and stress.
Initially the platforms were created as a positive avenue for individuals to express themselves. There was now a place where they could post pictures to share with their friends and family. Regrettably, the tables have turned, turning social media into a threat to Americans’ mental health (and to people around the world).
Social media is a primary source of cyberbullying. Followers and friends often criticize photos; so, if an individual responds emotionally to all comments they are at risk for advanced mental health issues. This in turn also causes individuals to change their behavior, conforming to those that are “liked” on social media. The biggest downside to all of this – social media is causing individuals to become more disconnected from their reality. Many individuals are beginning to live a virtual life and the lack of personal connections can have damaging effects on people, including depression, anxiety, isolation, low self-esteem, and low self-worth. Recognizing that there is a problem with one’s social media use can be just as challenging as overcoming the addiction.
Do You Have Social Media Addiction?
Dr. O’Neil has recently outlined the “red flags” that may indicate someone may be suffering from social media addiction. If you answer “Yes” to any of the following questions, you may want to consider contacting a professional to discuss if social media addiction is negatively affecting your life.
- Are you spending an increasing amount of time on social media sites?
- Do you engage in social media while attending other commitments, such as while at work or at school?
- Are you using social media sites to escape feelings?
- When someone bothers you while you are online, do you get annoyed?
- Do you feel preoccupied with being online?
- Are you spending hours online, losing track of time and responsibilities?
- Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms from engaging online?
- Do you find yourself more depressed when comparing yourself to others posts?
Social media addiction is a new side effect of the increased technology in our lives. Getting help for social media addiction does not have to be as drastic as going to see a therapist in a traditional office.
Instead, platforms such as Talkspace are providing a convenient and easy to use therapeutic tool for those who feel their lives are impacted by social media use. Using text messaging, audio messages, and a video chatting, individuals can take back control of their lives.
Online therapy platforms can help individuals learn to understand their social media habits, learn how to balance their social media time, and allow them to regain control over heavy social media use. Find more info on Talkspace in the Google Play store.