Social media addiction - NL-044
Can't resist scrolling through social media even when you are in a meeting? Just a sound of a new notification arriving in your inbox is enough to distract you? Is being on social media leaving too little time for yourself and your family? Chances are that your uncontrollable urge to check your social media messages even at the cost of interpersonal and professional disruption could be a sign of social media addiction.
Experts believe that addiction with social media works like any other addiction, where the brain associates any activity with reward mechanism. For example, things like getting likes or positive feedback on your posts, pictures and videos send a rush of dopamine through the brain. This instant attention feels like reward or positive reinforcement to your brain, making it seek more and more pleasure through similar activities. Since this dopamine rush is temporary, you are likely to repeat this behaviour to get more pleasure once the initial euphoria wears off. Compulsive users feel a constant pressure to fit in and to get constant likes on their posts. In addition, they also experience the fear of missing out (FOMO), which triggers them to engage more on social media.
Signs of social media addiction
If using social media is creating problems in your personal life, interfering with your professional responsibilities and isolating you from loved ones, there could be a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Here are some top signs that you are addicted to social media:
- Spending a lot of time thinking about using social media
- Spending a lot of time using social media
- Checking social media first thing in the morning
- Checking social media when driving
- Uncontrollable desire to access your social media profile at any cost
- Feeling stressed, angry and agitated when you can't use social media
- Ignoring real-time, non-virtual interactions with friends and family
- Relying heavily on social media as an escape route to deal with your problems, stress, loneliness and other negative emotions.
Consequences of social media addiction
Extreme urges to check and re-check social media affects mental and emotional health and is linked to anxiety, depression, loneliness, poor mood and insomnia. Excessive use may also increase the risk of social anxiety disorder and promote the feelings that you aren’t good enough. It also impacts physical health as a person spends less time on physical activities and gets less sleep. Teenagers can be at risk of cyber bullying where oversharing of personal information and rumour mongering can cause severe emotional damage, sometimes irreversible.
How can you reduce social media use?
Social media is a great platform to stay connected, to express yourself and find like-minded groups to seek help and comfort. But it can be highly addictive and harming to some people. What can you do to decrease its use?
- Turn off notifications
- Track your screen time and be mindful about it
- Set a time-frame to use social media and stick to it
- Set aside a “screen-free” time (daily or weekly)
- Avoid checking your phone before bedtime
- Never text while driving
- Avoid using phone during social meets
- Spend time on your “screen-free” hobbies
- Take digital breaks every now and then
- Spend time with friends and family
- Engage in in-person social activities