Five more minutes

Or ten, tops. Then I’ll put my phone away. To nobody’s surprise, after that comes other ten minutes. And soon those couple of minutes have turned into two hours of aimless scrolling on social media. This kind of scene is for sure extremely common. But is it a sign of an obsession? Social media can become as addictive as alcohol, drugs or gambling. Even though many seem worried about the excessive overuse of social media they might not yet consider it as equally severe addiction as the more well-known ones.

Social media keeps on gaining a larger foothold in people’s daily life and discussion about the addictive side of it has fortunately begun to increase gradually as well. Still, quite often the statements tend to remain as general nagging in which social media fasts are praised and the overuse simply disapproved. Suggestions like “Just ditch social media” or “Try doing something nice instead” feel rather useless when one’s whole life, like friends, hobbies and schoolwork, seems to be related to social media and Internet. Distinguishing the characteristics of a real addiction from an ordinary social media use in our digitalised and networked society is therefore very important.

Spending four hours watching YouTube or hanging half of the day on Instagram doesn’t automatically make anybody a social media junkie. Being addicted means an inability to stop the use even when asked. Constantly escaping to online world to feel better might indicate social media obsession. It has symptoms like depression, anxiety or loneliness. Especially harmful consequence of this kind of obsessive overuse is its tendency to change the way negative feelings are handled. If social media is constantly used to avoid or forget unpleasant thoughts and emotions one will slowly lose important coping mechanisms. Whenever a feeling of boredom, disappointment or sadness emerges, going to Snapchat or Facebook will not help in the long term. One should be able to tolerate those unpleasant feelings and understand that highs and lows are both inevitable part of life.

This addiction isn’t just a problem of the younger generation who has been born in the era of the Internet. Nowadays social media is so integrated into our lives that finding moderation is tricky: the online content is designed to keep us captivated all the time. Apps utilise notifications so no post or upload goes unnoticed. Netflix and YouTube will automatically start playing the next video for us. Online filtering algorithms tailor the content we consume to be more and more appealing. On top of that our society emphasises the importance of networking, adopting new technologies and having an impressive social media status.

Despite of all the negative, social media isn’t only bad and dangerous. It offers us a way to share, connect, learn and unwind. Still, even though social media is heavily embedded in today’s daily life, we must not let it deceive us in thinking that being online 24/7 should be the norm. Therefore, discussion on social media addiction will hopefully keep on continuing.