Internet Addiction is Real

Peer-Reviewed Academic Studies Confirm Internet Addiction is a Mental Health Issue

Sharon Winkler
Social Media Harms
Published in
4 min readJul 22, 2021


Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash

In Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, Dorothy, a teenager from Kansas, gets transported via tornado to the land of Oz. Dorothy desperately wants to return home and is advised by the locals to enlist the help of the Wizard of Oz. In her travels , she meets a lion, scarecrow and a tin-man who also desire to obtain favors from the Wizard — courage, intellectual superiority and love — personal strengths bestowed to them without any effort or pain. In the early 21st century our Wizard of Oz is technology — the internet and social media.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated in a letter to investors in 2012 that :

“Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected….to build the services that give people the power to share and help them once again transform many of our core institutions and industries…extending people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships…change how people relate to their governments and social institutions…that could lead to more direct empowerment of people, more accountability for officials and better solutions to some of the biggest problems of our time.”

Similar goals are echoed by Twitter (“We Serve the Public Conversation”), Reddit (“Dive Into Anything”) , YouTube (“Give everyone a voice and show them the world”), Google (“organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”), and TikTok (“To inspire creativity and bring joy”). What could possibly be bad about these services built with such lofty intentions?

In 1996, Sherry Turkle, Ph.D., founding director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Initiative on Technology and Self, and a practicing psychologist, gave many lectures on the promise of the internet. In one speech at Cambridge University she went so far as to say that people could use online opportunities, such as chat rooms and on-line virtual communities as “consequence free” methods to obtain personal growth and development. By the time she gave her TED talk, “Connected but alone?” in 2012, her opinions had changed radically.

“Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile communication and I’ve interviewed hundreds and hundreds of people, young and old, about their plugged in lives. And what I’ve found is that…those little devices in our pockets are so psychologically powerful that they don’t only change what we do, they change who we are. Some of the things we do now with our devices are things that, only a few years ago, we would have found odd or disturbing, but they’ve quickly come to seem familiar, just how we do things.”

Unfortunately, Dr. Turkle’s keen observations and insights were quickly forgotten (or ignored) by the technology industry and major media outlets. But there were others with concerns. In 2018, Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist widely referred to as the “father of virtual reality, ” gave the TED talk “How We Need to Remake the Internet” and wrote the book “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.”i Lanier’s first argument: “You are losing your free will.”ii The Center for Humane Technology created the documentary The Social Dilemma, released on Netfix in September 2020, which Netflix describes as a “documentary-drama hybrid [that] explores the dangerous human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations.”

But in 2021, social media continues to be the 21st century Wizard of Oz, whose marketing out-reach and advertising revenues continue to encourage glowing articles published by mainstream media outlets and inspires impassioned defense of their technologies by major technology companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. Other organizations are also under social media’s spell. The not-for-profit organization, Data & Society, goes so far as to list social media addiction as one of the Four Myths of Healthy Tech.

Fortunately, there are academics, journalists and activists who believe differently. Social Media Harms (SMH) references include mass-marketed books and widely distributed articles referencing many studies regarding the addictive nature of social media use. SMH also has a listing of ten peer-reviewed studies, published in authoritative professional journals, which demonstrate the negative effects of “problematic social media use” or “social media addiction.”

The curtain needs to be thrown open to reveal the 21st century wizard for what it is — a dangerous technology that needs to be changed. The time is now to take action so that we do not lose another social media influencer, like Lee MacMillian, whose struggles with social media addiction were so eloquently described by Jennifer Muldoon in her Medium blog Write Like a Girl.

Are you a student, journalist or simply a curious person who wants to get the “other side of the story” about the effects of social media on mental health? Are you interested in learning about groups who are also concerned about the effects of social media on mental health? Then Social Media Harms (SMH) is for YOU. SMH does NOT solicit donations, however, we are asking for additions to our lists of peer reviewed studies and authoritative books and articles to improve our website.

i Lanier, J (2018) Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Account Right Now, Picador

ii Ibid, pages 5–26.



Sharon Winkler
Social Media Harms

Publisher/Editor Social Media Harms, Mother, Grandmother, Retired U. S. Naval Officer