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Social Media Addiction: Meaning, Symptoms, Causes, Effects, and Treatment | Essay

Do you use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, or Reddit? If your answer is a yes, you know what social media is and there is a high chance that you are addicted to one of them.

There is absolutely no problem and nothing wrong with using social media. Some people use it to check updates from their friends and to stay connected. Some people use it for entertainment and to kill time.

The problem comes when someone becomes addicted to social media and overspends their time on those platforms, as a result, their bad habit serious affected their lives in a negative way. And this is obviously something that you want to avoid.

Let’s take Facebook as an example. Facebook is the biggest social media and used by the most people in the world. It has 1.13 billion daily active users and if it represents a country, it will be the most populated country in the world.

More importantly, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg said that on average, people would spend about 50 minutes a day on Facebook, Instagram, and also the messenger platform. Well, 50 minutes a day does not sound like much.

However, you should understand that there are only 24 hours a day, and an average person sleeps about 8 hours, and this means that one-sixteenth of an average person’s waking time is spent on Facebook.

Spending 50 minutes a day on Facebook will accumulate and become an extremely time-consuming activity that will eat up most of your life.

Do you know that studies have shown that people read only about 19 minutes a day on average and most people spend only about 17 minutes in sports or exercise each day? It is unacceptable to see people spend more time on Facebook than they do on exercise and reading for improvement.

And this is one of the main concerns and also the reasons social media addiction has quickly becoming a hot topic lately.

If you overspend your time on social media like on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you may have become a social media addict, it is just that you did not know about it.

What is Social Media Addiction?

Social media addiction is a term that is often used to refer to someone who spends too much time on social media like Facebook and Twitter or other forms of social media. As a result, it affects the person’s daily life.

Although there is no official medical recognition on social media addiction as a disease, the negative habit of excessive use of social media has become a subject of much discussion and research.

Addiction simply means a compulsive behavior that leads to negative effects. And in this case, social media addiction is referring to someone who has a compulsive use of social media. For example, people who constantly check updates on Facebook or “stalking” other people for hours.

However, it is difficult to tell if someone is a social media addict. If you spend a few hours into social media checking updates and reading random tweets on Twitter, does that make you an addict?

Some people claimed that they spend time on social media to read the news and to find entertainment to kill time; they are not addicted to it. So how can we tell if someone is an addict?

At Harvard University, researchers have performed MRI scan on people’s brains to see what happened when they talk about themselves, which is an essential part of what most people do in social media. The result showed that self-disclosure communication creates pleasure in the brain. In conclusion, it makes people happy and high when they talk and think about themselves.

There is no direct conclusion in determining if someone is a social media addict, however, many physicians have observed similar symptoms such as depression, anxiety, psychological disorders, and more are the proofs of social media addiction.

Similar to Cell Phone and Internet Addictions

Some researchers agreed that social media addiction is similar to cell phone and internet addiction disorder. These types of disorders are not new and people have started talking about it since decades ago.

Even back then, people have said that the heavy usage of internet and cell phone may cause serious problems to work performance and negatively impact one’s life, but there is no official mentioning that social media addiction is a type of disorder.

There are reasons why people are regarding social media addiction as a type of disorder, just like addiction to a cell phone, the internet, and even alcohol.

Every once in a while, when you check updates on social media, or after you have posted something, you want to know who will react to your post. And whenever people give you a “like” or commented something on your post, it makes you feel great. You will feel that you are not alone, you are being connected and someone cares about you.

More importantly, if people “like” or “share” what you have posted, you feel happy as if people agree with what you have posted and they like it. When this happens, your brain cells stimulate dopamine, a chemical released by your neurons to signal other nerve cells that will make you feel good and happy.

This is one of the core reasons causing the addiction. These rewards and the pleasure you receive from using social media will condition and program your mind to crave for more. If it continues over the long term, it will quickly become your habit and the disorder will eventually take place.

Signs and Symptoms of Social Media Addiction

While there is no clear sign of telling if someone is a social media addict from the official medical standpoint, but there are plenty of signs and symptoms that clearly identify if you are addicted to social media.

Some of the signs and symptoms are clear-cut and to the point, while some are more difficult to identify and require effort to reveal.

10 Common Signs You Are Addicted to Social Media

If you want to know whether you are a social media addict, look at how you live your life and how you spend your time.

Social media addiction can be considered a habitual disorder and the signs can be identified from what you do each day.

Below are the 10 common signs of a social media addict. If you are repeating most of these signs below, there is a high chance that you are addicted to social media.

1. Social media is the first thing you do in the morning.

What is the first thing you do once you wake up in the morning? If your answer is to check Facebook or update your status on any social media platform, it is a clear sign that you are addicted to social media.

Almost every addict will start their day with a morning routine of checking and pointlessly scrolling through what they have missed on social media after the long hours of sleep at night.

Most social media addicts feel like they have lost a lot of time and are outdated, thus, they want to check the status and see who has posted something new.

2. You waste your time looking at nonsense and procrastinate.

One thing that makes people less productive and accomplishes less in life is procrastination. And social media is a big cause and also the motivator for procrastination.

People can spend hours scrolling mindlessly reading news and updates that have no meaning at all. They can be a form of entertainment, but in reality, most of the things shared through on social media will not do any good to your life.

For example, some people scroll through videos of funny cats, while others “stalk” others and some swipe through their ex-girlfriend’s pictures from years ago. Most of these activities are time wasters and they do not add any value to your life.

3. You checked in everywhere you go.

Do you ever have any friend who wants to snap a picture for every meal he or she has and share it to the social media or try to check in the location? Or perhaps you are doing the same?

Well, it is understood that if you are trying to do this occasionally when you are on holidays, but if you are doing it too often and at almost every location, you may want to seriously consider your own behavior.

A lot of people especially the youngsters will take out their smartphone to take a picture of their food, post on social media and check in the location before they eat. This can annoy those who are at the same table or people who are less privileged to enjoy the food.

4. You check notifications all the time.

Checking notification can be a normal thing to do when your phone buzz. However, if you are checking it all the time regardless of whether your phone buzzes, you may suffer serious addiction.

People check their phone because they receive notification, and most of the time, the notifications are from social media. Which means to say that these notifications are not really that important in your life.

Some chronic social media addicts will even have imaginary notifications in their head. They imagined their phone vibrates or receives notification, hence they want to check it every minute. This can be a serious issue that needs handle immediately.

5. You only want to contact and talk to your friends via social media.

This is another sign of showing that you are a social media addict and the disorder slowly takes place in your life. Gone are the days of phone calls and text messages.

With the introduction of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, people may choose to contact you using those platforms and avoid real physical contact.

If you choose to use social media as the only means of contacting and talking to other people, the sign is clear that you are a social media addict.

6. You constantly monitor the “likes” and “shares” you receive.

As what you have learned from the above that checking social media rewards people because of the “likes” they receive from their friends. And this can be addictive.

The reward of getting “likes” from a picture posted on Facebook means a lot to a social media addict. They are a form of acceptance and quickly become a habit to want to check who react to your post.

The problem will grow deeper when the addict goes into double-figure likes on Instagram or platform.

7. Craving for internet connection.

The existence of internet is not the issue, the real culprit is that with internet access, people can easily connect themselves to social media. And when there is no internet connection available, the addicts will feel stress and uneasy.

Social media addict cannot live a life without internet, even for just a few hours. They will feel anxiety and choose to enter places with an internet connection.

8. You take photos of almost everything.

There are plenty of videos and photos that went viral showing someone involved in an accident, but the bystander did nothing besides taking photo or video for social media use instead of helping the ones in need.

This has become a serious issue and society condemns the ethical of the one who chooses to share the incident on social media than giving a helping hand.

If you are taking photos of everything, from the food you eat, the movie you watch, to constantly taking selfies and sharing them on social media, you should keep an eye on your behavior.

9. Social media becomes part of your life.

Social media has been created to connect people with ease and to build relationships. There is nothing wrong with this, but if it has become part of your life and you cannot live without checking Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, you know that something is wrong.

How much time do you spend on social media each day on average? Do you spend a lot of time on them and they have become part of your life? If so, you need to do something about it and never let this habit grows into disorder.

A clear sign of how social media becomes part of your life can be seen if you have lost interest in other activities and responsibilities. You choose to scroll your phone instead of going out to exercise. You choose to waste time on Facebook rather than washing the dishes.

10. Checking social media is the first thing you do whenever you are free.

So would you do if you whenever you are free? Do you daydream about achieving your goals and visualize about realizing your dreams? Do you exercise and go for a walk when you have the extra time? Do you call and talk to someone you love? Or do you choose to spend your time on social media whenever you have the free time?

How you spend your free time will greatly determine your life. Downtime should be wisely spent for better and more valuable activities and events, not to be wasted on social media.

While this is not to say that you should not spend any free time on social media at all, but you must keep a close eye on how much time you use up on social media, and not overdo it.

Other Mental Symptoms of Social Media Addictions

Besides the clear signs of how you spend and use your time, there are also mental symptoms that can be identified from a social media addict.

1. Experiencing Less Satisfaction and Hence, Less Happiness

One study has found that social media users tend to have less happiness and satisfaction in life. The reason being that Facebook conjures up a perception of social isolation.

Try to imagine you spend most of your time facing the screen either from your computer or smartphone, you don’t involve in any physical interaction with other people, how would you feel?

The lack of face-to-face connect will make people feel lonely and less happiness. While social media does provide the convenience to connect with others, one cannot fully neglect the need for physical and face-to-face interaction with other humans.

The more time people spend on social media, the more socially isolated they will be. And this can make you experience less happiness and less satisfaction.

2. It Can Promote Jealousy

People love to compare with each other especially in social media. Studies have found that most people admit that seeing other people travel and having a great vacation or showing material possessions are envy-inducing.

This can make social media the ground for invidious feelings. The jealousy feeling can make a person want to make his or her own life look better, and post jealousy-inducing posts of their own. Apart from that, the feeling of jealousy can trigger depression too.

3. It Raises Your Anxiety Level and Affects Your Overall Well-being

People who are addicted to social media will never sit still whenever they are free. They will take out their smartphone or check on updates from their computer regularly. And if they do not have the access to social media, they will feel anxiety and worry.

This is because social media addicts depend too much on the social media either to kill time, to have entertainment or to satisfy their own negative behavior cravings. And whenever they stop using it, they tend to feel anxiety.

Besides that, studies have also shown that there are other negative effects that will affect the overall well-being of the person who cannot get rid of social media.

What Causes Social Media Addiction?

Just like gambling, alcohol, and drugs, social media addiction seems harmless, but it is a growing problem that needs to solve because the effect it brings can lead to depression, anxiety and more.

Whenever you receive notifications from social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, your brain will release a small amount of dopamine. This makes you feel good on a chemical level. Each time you see a notification, your brain gets excited.

And over the long term, this will form a habit and you will fall into the addictive behavior. Plus, whenever you see someone “like” or “share” what you posted on social media, you feel good and in theory, according to experts, your sense of self-worth will increase.

What really happens is that you are relying on your smartphone and computer for social interaction instead of engaging in a face-to-face interaction. At the end of the day, you will feel isolated because your interactions are online and not in the physical world. This will lower your self-esteem.

It is the “reward” that is the most important neurological reason responsible for the compulsive usage of the social network. When the brain created dopamine, it also creates the desire so that the person will search for and want more of the reward from using social media.

How Social Media Addiction Affects Your Life

Social media has grown and become a big part of our daily life these days. People just cannot ignore the power of social media today. Even big companies are utilizing the power of social media to create their marketing channel to influence their audience.

The problem is that without control, social media can overtake and control your life rather than you control them. Most people underestimated how social media can influence and affect their lives until it is too late to notice the effect and to change.

Take marriage as an example, according to a survey done by 2,000 married Britons conducted by a law firm in the UK, one in seven married people said they would consider divorce because of how their partners were behaving on social media like Facebook, Snapchat, Skype, Twitter, and Whatsapp.

Besides, the survey also found that as high as 25% of the married couples had at least an argument with their partners on a weekly basis and the issue was related to social media usage.

Therefore, social media truly can affect one’s life. Below are some other ways how this new interactive technology can affect your life.

1. Cyberbullying

People can say anything they want and still get away on the internet. This has led to cyberbullying, where people use the electronic communication to send messages in an intimidating or threatening nature.

Cyberbullying can be a serious issue where the victim can experience a huge amount of stress that leads to a decline in mental health.

There are also cases where cyberbullying have led to suicide cases and caused death.

2. Distraction and Drop In Productivity

Do you know that social media is a huge distraction and it and interrupt your life in every level? Try to imagine you are writing an important article and suddenly someone gives you a buzz on Facebook, you will lose your flow and this will distract your focus.

Many studies have found that the more people engage with social media, the less the person able to focus on his work. It leads to decrease productivity and increase in procrastination.

Furthermore, if you spend your most productive hours on social media, you will use up most of your willpower and energy there, this will make you less likely to have the motivation and energy to work on more important work when it is time to work.

Therefore, spend your time and use social media responsibility. It can lower your performance and make you decrease your creativity.

3. Fatigue and Stress

What do you think would happen if you stare at your computer screen or your cell phone for a long period? You will feel tired and stressed.

Plus, when you are checking social media, you are constantly switching from one task to another because there are so many things to check out and to see. This information overload will wear out your brain power and make you feel fatigue.

Every time your brain thinks, you use your willpower and energy. And when you spend most of your time on social media, you are spending your energy there. Instead of using your downtime to rest, you use it to check updates on social media. As a result, your brain uses the energy to process information and stresses you out.

4. Peer Pressure and The Desire To Compare

Another common way how social media can affect your life is through peer pressure. People are afraid to miss out and they love to compare themselves with other people. You want to become part of the community and part of the group, this is why you are using the social network in the first place.

As human nature, you will want to compare yourself with other and this will cause peer pressure. You want to be like everyone else. When you see your friends sharing their latest vacation in Paris, you want to do the same too.

Over compare will create anxiety and give rise to the negative feelings such as jealousy. This can evolve into a more serious issue and cause mental health disorder.

5. Other Related Health Issue

Apart from all that being mentioned, there will be other related health issues such as blurry vision due to strain eyes as the result of long hours watching the screen.

And if you are using social media from a cell phone, you may suffer back and neck pain issue as you have to consistently bend down your neck to look at your phone.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical condition due to compression of the median nerve as it travels through the wrist at the carpal tunnel. This is due to long hours of repeating the same movement with your hands and arms, especially when you use your phone or face the computer over a long period.

Experts have also found that people who face computer screens and their phones over long hours may cause headaches at times.

Besides, if checking social media is the first and the last thing you did before bed, this routine will disturb your sleep and cause you to suffer side-effects from sleep deprivation.

How to Cure Social Media Addiction

If you think that you spend too much of your precious time on social media or perhaps you are addicted to it, not to worry because there are ways to get rid of the bad behavioral issue.

Like all other illnesses and problems, there are cures and solutions to social media addiction. The key is to have the commitment to follow through some of the suggested steps below and make social media a tool that you can control rather than let it control your life.

Below are some useful suggestions on how you can cure social media addiction.

1. Get Rid of Notifications

One of the key factors people are getting addicted to social media is because they are often distracted by notifications.

In fact, notifications can act as a reminder to the users to check their phones or computers. Therefore, the most effective way to solve this is to turn off the notifications.

If social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter cannot notify you on any updates, there is a higher chance that you will not check on them. It is a great first step in getting rid of social media addiction.

Plus, if you always get distracted by notifications, you cannot concentrate well on your tasks at hand. It can cause negative feelings like stress and anger.

2. Limit Your Time Spent On Social Media

Besides turning off the notifications, another thing you can do is to limit the time you spend on social media.

For example, choose to spend only 15 minutes a day on social media. You can check Facebook each day, but make sure you use only minimal time or you use it only at a certain hour of the day.

You can set a rule such as “no social media in the office”, and never commit to it. This way, you can focus on your work and improve your productivity. You will only use social media and check updates outside your office when you are out for lunch or during downtime.

This technique can work extremely well if you stick to the rule and honor the promise to yourself.

3. Delete the Apps

Another crucial key people are addicted to social media is because of its convenience to access those platforms. All you need to do is to swipe your phone and you can check on updates on Facebook, post something on Twitter and upload a photo on Instagram.

No doubt that technology has brought conveniences to our lives, perhaps, too convenient until we indulge ourselves and lost ourselves in the world of online communication.

If all else fails, delete the App. Yes, you read it right. Just delete the App so that there is no way you can check the updates or get notifications from the convenience of your smartphone.

Once you have deleted the App, the only way to use social media is through your computer, which will be less convenient. This will directly lower down your desire to want to use them.

This can be an effective way to seriously get rid of social media and can work as the ultimate solution for the addiction.

4. Make Yourself Busy

Yes, whenever you are free, you will automatically pick up your smartphone and spend time on social media. In order to prevent this, just make yourself busy.

Replace your usual free time that you used for social media for other things. For instance, go for sports. What are your hobbies? Do you love to read? Do you want to play the piano? Do you love jogging? Do you want to go for a swim? Or do you like fishing?

Make yourself busy so that you will have no free time to check on social media. When your time is fully occupied or when you are too concentrate on something else, you will never want to check what’s going on on Facebook or get updates from Twitter.

5. Restrict Your Time Spent on Social Media Through Apps

This is another effective way to limit your time usage on social media. There are plenty of Apps you can use to restrict your time spent on a social network such as Offtime, Moment, AppDetox, BreakFree, and Stay on Task.

These Apps are designed in such a way that they will restrict your time spent on most social platforms. Once you have exceeded your time spent there, most will log you out or block you from using them.

These Apps are useful especially for the addicts and children who spend too much of their time on social media.

6. Create Your Own Reward System

Now, people are becoming addicted to social media because every time they check updates from these platforms, they feel good and their brain rewarded them with a “happy” feeling.

You can also create your own reward system to fight against the reward you get from using social media. All you need to do is to reward yourself every time when you resist your urge to use social media or you successfully stay within the allowed time usage.

Praise yourself, get yourself a snack, give a pat on your back, or go do something else that you love to do. When you reward yourself after you resist using social media, you are training your brain that there is something better than spending time on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

7. Disconnect and Unplug Yourself

This method is like deleting the Apps, but instead of deleting, you choose to disconnect yourself from the internet or simply switch off your phone to get unplugged.

When you have no way to get access to the internet, you will never get the chance to use social media. In fact, most successful and productive people will get unplug in the evening. They prefer to spend quality time with their lovers than to mindlessly scroll Facebook for updates.

8.  Never Bring Your Smartphone Into Your Bedroom

Do you know that as much as 61% of people check their phones 5 minutes after they wake up according to Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey? And more than 96% will do that within an hour.

The study also found that as high as 74% of people will check their phones about 15 minutes before they go to sleep. This survey simply shows that most people will use their phone the first thing after they wake up and the last thing before they sleep.

And most of the time, they check their phone for social media updates. So to get rid of this bad habit, set up a rule to not allow phones into your bedroom.

Get yourself an alarm clock instead of using your phone as an alarm. And leave your phone in the living or anywhere outside your bedroom.

9. Get An Accountability Partner

Most people understand that they should decrease their time spent on social media, but they just don’t do it. The reason is that they are not being accountable. And to solve this, get yourself an accountability partner.

Tell your spouse, your parents, your kids, your colleagues, your boss and your friends to remind you to stop if they spot you spend time on social platforms.

This will create a pressure and force you to stop. It is a great way because you are making a public commitment and others are helping you rather than leaving you to solve the problem all by yourself.

10. Do a Self-reflection Every Week

How can you tell if you are spending too much time or are addicted to social media? You don’t have to wait for other people to tell you this. Just do a self-reflection at least once every week.

Ask yourself what have you done throughout the week and where do you spend the most time in? What have you accomplished and how do you want your following week to be like?

Asking self-reflective questions are good because they allow you to evaluate yourself and understand if you are being productive and are moving forward.

A social media addict will never move forward in life because they waste too much time on unnecessary things. In other words, they are not productive. Thus, when you reflect on your life each week, you will understand where you are and which area you need to improve.

Conclusion

Finally, please understand technology is there to help us move forward, it is not created to waste our time and make us less productive.

Social media can be a great way to connect with people, but you must not neglect the importance of physical communication with others too. Never let these online social platforms take away your precious time or control your life, you should be the one that controls them as a tool.

If you found yourself spending too much time on social media and are addicted to it, follow the advice above, get rid of the disorder and gain back the control over your life.

References

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Message from Sophia!

I would love to hear from you and read your comments on this article. Let me know what you think about this article. Is it helpful to you? Your comments and suggestions will serve as an inspiration and learning platform for me.
Regards, Sophia

One Response to Social Media Addiction: Meaning, Symptoms, Causes, Effects, and Treatment | Essay

  1. Prathiba January 24, 2018 at 8:02 am #

    I am addicted to Facebook… somebody please help me to get rid of my Facebook addiction…

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