Social media is an essential modern-day tool. Sadly, its use has reached unhealthy addiction levels in many, especially young people.
Constantly checking notifications and mindlessly scrolling through feeds is damaging our mental health, relationships, and ability to feel happy in the real world.
Worse, the issue is contagious. When we meet someone who keeps checking their phones while we are talking, we often pick up their bad habit.
Our anxiety when we aren’t online, during Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter outages, shows how much we rely on these social media sites.
And our favorite social media addiction joke is to switch off the wifi to get everyone in the house in one place.
Causes of Social Media Addiction
Social media addiction can be defined as constantly checking our social media, spending excessive time watching short videos, and monitoring what others have posted.
Understanding the reasons behind it can help users see how they got there:
- One cause of this is the addictive algorithm of social media, which shows us similar media to what we just liked, and prods us with notifications and likes to check-in. All this triggers dopamine release, creating a pleasure and reward cycle.
- Secondly, social media addiction can be a form of escapism, as people use it to distract themselves from their current real-world problems or loneliness.
- Finally, social media addiction can be a result of social pressure, with people feeling the need to keep up with peers. FOMO (fear of missing out) can be a powerful motivator that leads to compulsive behavior.
Once we know how algorithm-driven addiction leaves us time-poor for real-world activities, we can take steps to achieve a healthier lifestyle that benefits our mental health, relationships, and overall well-being.
Signs of Social Media Addiction
Here are some common signs and symptoms of social media addiction:
- Compulsive check-ins: One of the most common signs of social media addiction is a compulsion to check social media frequently, even when it interferes with other activities or responsibilities.
- Excessive and prolonged use: Spending long periods on social media, often at the expense of other activities or offline relationships, is another sign of addiction.
- Mood changes: Addiction to social media can lead to changes in mood, including anxiety, depression, irritability, and restlessness when unable to access social media.
- Neglecting responsibilities: Addiction to social media can cause people to neglect important responsibilities, such as work or school, in favor of spending time online.
- Physical symptoms: Addiction to social media can also cause physical symptoms, such as eye strain, headaches, and neck or back pain from prolonged screen time.
People addicted to social media often cannot eat without some media playing, and often lose their track of time, realizing they have wasted hours when they intended to spend only minutes.
If you or someone you know is experiencing these signs and symptoms of social media addiction, it may be time to take action to cultivate a healthier relationship with technology.
How To Overcome Social Media Addiction
Social media habits can become entrenched without you knowing, and then it becomes difficult to break free from them.
First, realize that you have the problem and then take small, steady steps.
Here are some expert-suggested strategies to help overcome your social media addiction:
1. Set Boundaries
Unless you time your social media involvement, you will forever spend way more time on it than you intended.
Setting boundaries is crucial to beat your social media habit.
Limit your time on social media, turn off notifications, and avoid using it before bedtime. Also, set limits on the content types you consume on these platforms.
Decide on specific times of day when you will allow yourself to check social media, and stick to those times.
Avoid using social media first thing in the morning or right before bed, as this can disrupt your sleep and set a negative tone for the day.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a powerful tool for overcoming social media addiction.
It involves being present in the moment and fully engaged in the task at hand.
Practicing mindfulness can help social media addicts become more aware of their social media habits and break free from the constant need to check their phones.
Before checking social media, take a moment to check in with yourself and ask why you are using it. Are you looking for connection, validation, or entertainment?
Being mindful of your intentions can help you use social media in a healthier way.
3. Find Alternative Activities
One of the best ways to overcome social media addiction is distraction: finding alternative activities that do not involve technology.
It’s called “going off the grid.”
This could include taking up a new hobby, spending time with friends and family, or engaging in physical activity.
Finding alternative activities can help people break free from the constant urge to dive into their social media feeds.
You don’t have to draw dopamine kicks from people you will never meet doing things you might never do.
Go on a trip around your city like a tourist, right from wearing touristy attire and carrying a backpack.
4. Take scheduled breaks
Schedule regular breaks from social media, such as a weekend or a week-long hiatus. Use this time to focus on other activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
5. Turn off notifications
Constant notifications can be distracting and overwhelming. Turn off unnecessary notifications and limit the number of apps that you allow to send you notifications.
6. Engage in offline activities
To cultivate a healthier relationship with technology, and improve your overall well-being, step into the real world.
Make time for activities that don’t involve technology, such as exercise, reading, or spending time with friends and family. This can help you feel more balanced and fulfilled.
Negative Health Effects of Social Media Addiction
Social media addiction can negatively impact our mental and physical health, relationships, productivity, creativity, calmness, thoughtfulness, decision-making, and overall well-being.
Here are some of the most common negative effects of social media addiction:
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Loss of productivity and focus
- Increased anxiety and depression
- Decreased self-esteem and self-worth
- Increased feelings of loneliness and isolation
- Decreased face-to-face communication skills
- Decreased attention span and ability to concentrate
Addiction to social media can make us avoid real-world human interactions in favor of virtual ones.
Social media use can cause us to compare ourselves to others, straining our real-life relationships, and creating envy, jealousy, and inadequacy. These negative feelings stem from unrealistic portrayals we often see on social media.
We are good advisers, but poor doers. Find out if you have grown addicted to social media before advising others to develop a healthier relationship with technology.
We forget that what people post socially are their best moments and most of what influencers recommend us are paid promotions.
It is indeed a difficult habit to break, but with the right strategies, we can build more balance in our online and offline lives and overcome social media addiction.
Social media is a great tool to connect with loved ones, but it can easily turn you into an unhealthy addict.
Monitor your usage, set and follow strict time limits, take yourself out for real-world activities, and reward your every little progress.
Do not let your social media become your master who controls you at the cost of your mental health and well-being.
Consult a mental health counselor if you are struggling to overcome social media addiction on your own.
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Author Bio: Written and researched by Sandip Roy — a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher, who writes on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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