Are you addicted to social media?

We all know those feelings technology brings. Anxiety over your misplaced smartphone. The constant, unquenchable desire to check email. What you may not realize is an obsession over social media can indicate an addiction. Those new emails, likes, snaps and so on trigger a dopamine release that make you feel great. At least for a few minutes. Then you need another hit. Know what else triggers dopamine and makes us feel great? Narcotics. Like illicit drugs, the temporary high that technology brings only masks all the ways it’s undermining your happiness.

For instance, a University of Pittsburgh study confirmed a link between social media use and depression among young adults aged 19 to 32. All 1,787 study subjects spent an average of 30 times per week and 61 minutes each day on various social media platforms. Over 25% of these folks had “high” depression indicators. Researchers found direct, linear connections between both the total time spent on social media sites and the frequency of visits.

“Compared with those who checked least frequently, participants who reported most frequently checking social media throughout the week had 2.7 times the likelihood of depression. Similarly, compared to peers who spent less time on social media, participants who spent the most total time on social media throughout the day had 1.7 times the risk of depression.” What isn’t clear is whether folks already depressed are turning to social media to fill a void, or whether social media is truly a cause of depression, at least in part.

One thing is certain though, what you see on social media is not the entire story of the person, place or situation. Instead of making comparisons and feeling that you and your life are inadequate, remember most people only post what they want others to see or don’t advertise their bad days, breakups and failures. When you view posts, you are forced to create an alternate reality based on the limited information provided. Those perfect people you’re aspire to be like have issues and obstacles just like you.

Social media is not all bad, it has positive uses. The trick is to be mindful about your level of use and how it makes you feel. Do you find it hard to stop? Do you check your phone during visits with friends? Do you feel bad about yourself or your life after you do it? If you answer positively to any of these, then you would benefit from limiting your technology use. When your brain urges you to browse, ask if it’s necessary and helpful. You may really need to review all those work emails right now. Then again, maybe not. Technology is not a crutch. Embrace the situation at hand and learn to cope. It’s okay to be bored, anxious, sad, or whatever you may be feeling.

— Embrace hope.

So how do you use social media? Are you addicted or mindful?