We Need To Talk About Your Social Media Addiction
If you are reading this, it’s highly likely that you are addicted to social media. You might know it, you might not… You might even be proud of it. That’s probably because you take the addiction label very lightly. Obviously it’s laughable to compare your habit of scrolling the news feed and posting the odd selfie every day to say someone hooked on heroin right? Well the psychology of it all is actually the same and while it may not have the same life-destroying effects of drug addiction, it is probably holding you back and negatively affecting your life.
Lets take a look at addiction for a moment…
Addiction is repetitive behaviour characterised by an inability to stop despite having a negative impact on areas of your life. It is a disorder of the brain’s reward system which causes us to lose self control. Our brain gets hijacked by it’s own internal drug called dopamine. If you aren’t already familiar, dopamine is linked to everything that gives us pleasure and we are already hooked on this drug. Whenever we have a pleasurable experience we get a hit of dopamine. Your brain registers these dopamine hits and looks to get it’s next fix. Social media offers that easy fix in the form of notifications, likes, comments, messages, entertainment etc. Our brains while infinitely complex, can be extremely simple. This straightforward and repetitive exchange on social media in which small actions give us hits of dopamine is what leads to the addictive behaviour.
So why is it a problem?
It can lead to anhedonia which is an inability to enjoy normally pleasurable activities. Because of our over-stimulation via social media content we become desensitised to normally pleasurable activities in the real world. We create an unrealistic distorted perspective on what enjoyment/happiness is in the real world based on information overload in the cyber world. Take for example the #FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) effect that occurs when we see other people enjoying a better lifestyle than us.
Breeding ground for insecurities… We’ve all been jealous of someone on social media for whatever reasons. Many people stalk their ex or current partner to keep tabs on them. Many people post photos on themselves for validation (likes, comments etc) because of insecurities about themselves. Addictive use of social media to feed insecurities can not only amplify them, it can lead to a plethora of other psychological issues such as chronic narcissism, personality disorders and self-objectification.
Depression… Take the above points along with a bunch of other elements and yep, addictive social media behaviour can lead to depression. In fact, a 2012 university study linked social media to depression.
Novelty seeking behaviour which is closely linked to addiction, is when our addictive behaviour isn’t enough so we look to keep upping the ante. The dopamine fueled rush we get from our repetitive behaviour plateaus so we look to amplify the behaviour. This further fuels our reliance on social media and causes us to further indulge our insecurities and harmful habits.
Disconnect… Social media addiction and the issues that follow can lead to a strong disconnect from the real world. Not only are we spending most of your time on social media but when we are engaging in real life social interaction we aren’t really present. We are more focused scrolling our feed or posting a pic to Instagram than actually being a part of the interaction.
Productivity… Whatever things you have going on in your life (career, relationships etc), social media could be causing you to neglect them. Social media addiction robs us of productive time to be enriching our lives and furthering our goals and relationships. Social media is the number one procrastination tool these days for people.
Things you can do to get it under control
You know what they say... The first step is admitting you have a problem. Awareness is a powerful thing. Accept that it isn’t a joke anymore and that you need to curb your social media addiction.
Keep track of the time you spend on it... Tracking the time you spend on there and confronting it goes a long way towards making yourself accountable to your addiction. There are tools like Rescue Time which can give you a daily report of how much time you spend on social media
Keep track of what you do... More than just confronting how much time you spend, confront what you do with that time. It’s likely that you won’t be too happy with the amount of time you waste on fruitless social media activity.
Go offline... Set aside some time everyday where you go completely offline. Put your phone on airplane mode and simply be present. Give yourself some healthy time to switch off.
Work on real social activity... Set aside time in the real world for friends and family. This goes hand in hand with going offline. Don’t be half present while you tap away on your smartphone. Set aside some quality offline time with the people who matter most in your life.
Just like everything if your social media habit hasn’t crossed over into addiction stage then you probably don’t need to worry… Use this article however to identify the signs. For more tips on kicking your social media addiction and other bad habits check out this article: 7 Steps to Detoxifying Your Life