Do you find yourself losing time, often many minutes or even hours at a time using social media? You’re not alone, today I am receiving more and more enquires from people asking whether they are now addicted to social media. I provide here some guidance to evaluate whether your use of social media or within the bounds of ‘okay’, or maybe you have developed an addictive pattern around Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, snap chat or whichever platform is your go to for that social media fix.
These platforms may be encouraging you to be addicted to social media
When social media first started, several decades ago now, it was a way to connect with friends and family. However it’s since evolved into a more commercialised and even at times manipulative industry. People were quite shocked to watch documentaries such as The Social Dilemma. It was shown that platforms such as Facebook use algorithms and systems such as ‘likes’ to instil a feeling of desire and lack in people. Users are being trained to want more, to scroll more, to post more. The aim is to keep you on there for a long as possible and to do that they use subtle psychological tricks that leave you feeling down and craving more images, comments, likes and shares.
It is easy to dismiss this as a cynical way of looking at these social media platforms. After all they have brought the world together, made friendships blossom. However they have also been accused of giving a safe space to racists, conspiracy theorists and those organising criminal activity.
It’s easy to get addicted to social media
Of course, a little scrolling on Instagram is harmless fun. It’s a bit of a hobby used by all age groups. The question is, that you may enjoy social media and use it on a regular basis, but are you “addicted” to it?
At present, there’s no such thing as an official diagnosis of “social media addiction.” However, the overuse of social media is increasingly commonplace today. It is important to note that it may have some serious repercussions for your physical and mental health.
Are you actually addicted to social media?
When you learn how to identify problematic social media use, then you are in a better position to do something about it. Whether you use Facebook or snap chat to connect with friends and family, watch videos, or simply “waste time,” the popularity of social media has increased significantly over the last decade. This is especially true in the case of children and teenagers, as well as younger to middle-aged adults. How does a seemingly harmless pastime turn into an addiction?
Just like any other type of behavioural addiction, when you use social media, there begins an influence on your brain. We get a rush of dopamine. This happy chemical get us feeling good and we will begin to associate that feel good experience with likes and comments on Instagram or twitter. When you experience more dopamine as a result of using social media, your brain identifies this activity as one of reward. It then reacts by wanting you to repeat.
This is in fact exactly how other addictions, such as gambling work. When placing a bet or buying a scratch card, a gambler gets that some dopamine high. We like the feeling and like a lab rat, want more. We then begin to use social media compulsively and excessively. After a time, a person can become so accustomed to scrolling through posts, videos and images that it feel s a compulsion and a source of self esteem, and it may interfere with other areas of life.
So, do you have social media addiction? It is good to consult a mental health professional. Your GP can help you determine whether you truly have social media addiction or it’s just more of a case that you simply enjoy using it a lot. I work as a London hypnotherapist, seeing clients addicted to social media. At my clinic I have seen a few key differences between social media addiction and a habit that you enjoy. These differences include when there are:
- Detrimental effects to your work or studies due to the overuse of social media.
- An increased use whilst engaged in other activities. Such as being on your phone when seeing friends and family, or while eating.
- A clear increased reliance on social media as a way to escape or cope with problems
- Feeling restless and irritability whenever you are not able to access social media
- Feeling angry whenever social media usage is reduced or inaccessible.
- Finding that you are thinking about social media even when not using it. Maybe it’s the first thing you look at whenever given the opportunity.
How many of us are addicted to social media?
Some experts estimate that perhaps up to 10 percent of the United States population have social media addiction. However, since social media use is so common, the number of those who have social media addiction may indeed be even be higher. Of course, not everyone who uses social media will go on to develop an addictive behaviour around it.
Since the positive high feeling experienced from social media use is only temporary, the way your brain engages in this positive reinforcement loop is also, as mentioned, seen in other types of addiction. So, as the feel good dopamine hit wears off, you desire and crave to go back to the source for more. You mindlessly check Facebook or Instagram again.
Yes, often social media can be a welcome distraction, especially if you are alone due to work or an illness. However, the more you scroll, post and like, the more your brain will tell you that this is an activity that can help reduce feeling depressed or low, despite that not necessarily being the case.
Is being addicted to social media harmful?
Engaging in social media once in a while is clearly unlikely to be particularly harmful to health. However, there are going to be some negative side effects to be aware of when overusing social media. Possible downsides of social media addiction include:
- Feeling low self-esteem. This can be prompted by incorrectly concluding that others’ lives are better than yours
- Increasingly feeling isolation and loneliness
- anxiety or depression
- Experiencing a fear of missing out (FOMO). Thus itself can lead to even more social media use.
- Poor sleep patterns, especially if you use bright screens, ipads or phones for social media right before bedtime
- A decrease in physical activity
- Being less involved or ignoring relationships in real life
What to do if you feel addicted to social media
A good idea is to use Instagram, Facebook and so on a lot less. Easier said than done, of course. So, how can you decrease social media use? Here are some tried and tested ways you can help decrease your overall use and help you achieve a healthier balance with use of social media:
- Delete your social media accounts and remove apps from your phone. While you might still access them from your personal computer, removing them from your phone may help decrease the amount of time on social media overall.
- Turn off your phone or at least your wifi or data during work, study, meals, and recreational activities with friends. Adjust the settings on social media apps so you don’t get certain notifications.
- Take a social media holiday one or two days a week.
- Set aside some amounts of time dedicated to social media use each day. Using a timer can help keep you accountable.
- Leave your phone, ipad, and computer out of your bedroom at night. If you need an alarm clock, buy an old fashioned alarm clock rather than using your phone to wake you up.
- Take up some new hobbies, such as sports, art, cooking classes, country walking, or yoga. Fill you r life up with fun activities and new people.
- Take frequent breaks and set some good and clear boundaries around Facebook, snap chat, Tik Tok and other social media for both you and your children.
If you are concerned that you maybe addicted to social media, I offer support and hypnotherapy sessions in London Get in touch today to find out more.