Is Social Media Addictive?
Are you starting each day checking your social media profiles first thing in the morning? Are you ashamed of your phone’s screen time summary each Sunday because it reveals how much time you spent on social media apps last week? If yes, then you might be a little addicted to social media.
Don’t worry, you are not alone in this. Social media is highly addictive in the way that other individuals might become addicted to drinking alcohol, shopping, or gambling. For these people, social media is the most important activity in their lives. They use social media and neglect everything else in their lives.
Why So Addicting?
How is it so addicting? Well, social media affects your brain so much that it is addictive both physically and psychologically. A Harvard University study found that posting on social networking sites lights up the same part of the brain that also lights up when taking an addictive substance. The reward area in your brain affects decisions and sensations.
When you experience something rewarding, such as social media, the neurons in the dopamine-producing areas of your brain are activated. This causes your dopamine levels to rise, so your brain receives a reward for going on social media. Thus, your brain tricks you into associating social media with positive reinforcement.
You can see this on social media very easily. Whenever an addicted individual gets a notification, such as a like or a comment on their post, their brain receives an immediate rush of dopamine and sends it along the reward pathways in their brain. This causes them pleasure, allowing social media to provide endless “rewards” in the form of attention. They’re putting very minimal effort into this activity and this reward system is all done unconsciously.
Social media is also extremely addicting because our reward systems are the most active when we are talking about ourselves. It is all about showing off one’s life accomplishments, friends, family, and travels. When you post a picture of yourself and get positive feedback from others in the form of comments and likes, your brain is stimulated to release dopamine. Once again, this rewards that behavior and encourages your ongoing social media habit. However, the addiction can easily stray into a big problem.
If someone sees social media as their most important coping mechanism for relieving stress, depression, or loneliness then that is not healthy. For these addicted people, social media is offering a string of continuous rewards that they are not receiving in real life.
Continuous addictive behavior can lead to many problems in real-life, such as ignoring your relationships with family and friends, avoiding work or school obligations, and a decline in your physical health.
If you notice that you are becoming addicted or habitually dependent on social media, set time restrictions on yourself. Your phone can set a time limit each day to monitor your time app by app. Also, spend time away from your phone. Take time to read a book, exercise, spend time with family and friends, or getting ahead on your work obligations.
Health officials have also found a link between social media and negative mental health. Social media platforms have their benefits, but using them too much can make people feel unhappy or isolated from others.
The negative emotions associated with social media stem from a social pressure to share everything with others, but also the comparison of yourself to others and the material things and lifestyles they have. You can find yourself scrolling through Instagram and Facebook to only see posts of people who have the perfect relationship, perfect family, perfect job, or perfect life.
This is done for a reason! Social media platforms are specifically designed to appeal to you based on your interests and what you have engaged with in the past. If you liked, commented, or shared these types of posts in the past, you are more likely to see them again.
Others may see these photos and feel jealous, lonely, or depressed as a result because they feel that their life is not as “perfect” as the lives they see on their social media accounts. Social media users believe that other people are more successful and happier than they are, even when they do not know each other in real life.
Social media creates an environment in which we compare ourselves with others that appear to be perfect, filtered, and edited. This can be very harmful to our mental well-being and our self-image. When you are constantly comparing yourself to others, this can lead to a need for perfectionism or feeling self-conscious about what you are sharing on the internet.
Lastly, social media platforms create FOMO (fear of missing out). This happens when you see pictures of an event that you were not invited to or couldn’t attend for various reasons. YOu might find yourself constantly scrolling through these images and videos to see what you missed. This sensation can take a toll on your mental health and lead to a compulsive habit to make sure that you aren’t missing out on anything.
Don’t be scared, social media can still be a great thing. If you are mindful and conscious of your social media habits, you can avoid addiction. Help yourself by setting limits on social media apps and setting aside time for activities that don’t involve your phone. Psychologists say that it takes about three weeks to form a new habit, so you can spend these next few weeks readjusting your schedule to allow more time for other things.
The Good Side
Use social media for good! Stay connected with your family and friends that don’t live close to you. Do your part in promoting positivity on these platforms by lifting others up and being transparent in your actions and photos.
Find new friends and communities to connect with others that share similar interests and goals as you. Join groups that promote worthwhile causes to help raise awareness on important issues. Us social media as an outlet for your creativity and self-expression.
As a global social community, we can use social media to stay connected and promote well-being. By doing this, we can help other individuals that may be addicted to social media or feel isolated as a result.
By taking breaks and setting boundaries for yourself, you can prevent a dependency on social media. If you feel that you are addicted, there are ways to treat it. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for help.
Author: Payton Hoffman