Social media addiction is not an official diagnosis, but it has been proposed as one by experts. This type of behavior deviation involves overuse of social media, similar to Internet addiction and other types of media oversaturation.
A psychological review published in 2016 stated that “studies have also suggested a link between innate basic psychological needs and social network site addiction.” “Social network site users seek feedback, and they get it from hundreds of people—instantly. It could be argued that the platforms are designed to get users “hooked”.
Technology and medical communities are working together to develop novel solutions as awareness of these issues develops. Apple Inc bought a third party application and then integrated it as “screen time”, promoting it as an integral part of iOS 12.
A German technology startup designed an Android phone for efficiency and minimizing screen time. Likewise, News Corp reported multiple strategies for reducing screen time.
Signs of Social Media Addiction
Signs of addiction to social media include obsessive thoughts about or planning how to use social media, over-sharing on social media, experiencing an urge to use social media more and more often, or using them to forget personal problems.
Every time an addicted person is bored, they’ll check for updates to their newsfeed or responses to their posts. They steal glances at their Facebook pages when they are out with friends, watching a movie or sitting in a bar. At work or school, they’ll leave a profile open in the background and look at it every few minutes.
They’ve lost interest in chatting in real life because it takes so much effort. Chatting on social media, however, does not, and it’s a lot more fun.
Roots of Addiction
Social media use stimulates the reward pathway in the brain, which scientists believe to be the basis of addiction. Social media addiction manifests itself in anxiety and depression.
A study showed that frequent social media use in teens was moderately associated with self-reported symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder followed up over 2 years.
Some Companies Want to Make you Addicted!
Social media applications and mobile phones are actually designed to be addictive! DopamineLab is doing research on how to make apps addictive based on data on users’ neural networks. According to Silicon Valley insiders, this is becoming a pronounced trend. In an interview with the BBC’s Panorama programme, former Mozilla and Jawbone employee and engineer Aza Raskin likened social media use to having “behavioural cocaine” sprinkled all over your interface, keeping you coming back over and over again.
Raskin himself designed infinite scroll, which is a social media app feature that is seen as highly habit forming today. Infinite scroll makes it possible for users to swipe down through content endlessly without clicking. This way, they keep looking at their screens much longer than necessary because the endless scrolling doesn’t let the brain keep up with the movement and the information the person is looking at.
Corporations’ financial models motivate a lot of designers to create addictive app features. A company needs its users to spend as much time as possible with its products to get stock prices up and more funding. They’re always looking for ways to feed their users’ addiction.
Facebook Addiction Scale – There’s Even a Test for It
Apparently, scientists have created a scale to measure Facebook addiction? It’s called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS, for short), and it is the brainchild of Norwegian researchers, who wanted to measure “problematic behavior linked to Facebook use.”
The basic concept of BFAS rests on a fact that the scientific and psychological community generally agrees on: screens and social networking are addictive.
Some of the more notable findings related to the BFAS scale are that anxiety-prone individuals and women are more likely to become addicted to Facebook than those low in neuroticism and than men, respectively. Neuroticism is a personality measure devised by Hans Eysenck, which remains a key component of personality tests. Individuals who are high in neuroticism are more anxious, more likely to feel nervous and apprehensive and to think negatively. It could be that social media provide a temporary relief from negative thoughts and unpleasant emotional states, which these people experience relatively frequently.
The relief from pangs of anxiety and boredom that Facebook and other social media can provide make it hard for some people to stop using them even when they want to. Some people can feel validated by social media. It meets their need of fulfillment, because there’s nothing else there.
According to opponents of the BFAS scale, what the public needs are new, more complex methods to comprehend online addictions that don’t prioritise Facebook over other kinds of use and connectivity.
The Consequences for Young People
Studies show links between overusing social media and feelings of depression, anxiety, suicide, loneliness, and other mental health problems in teens, in addition to even going on less dates and having less intimacy with a partner. In the UK, teens spend about an average of 20 hours a week on their phones, mostly using social media. Note that these 20 hours don’t include glancing at the screen while they’re doing something else, like homework! This is 20 hours of PURE USE!
The Effects on Relationships
The huge amount of time wasted on social media is impacting our relationships and social interactions. It’s happened to all of us. You’re at a party or another gathering and everyone is sitting together…but they’re all fiddling with their phones. No chatter. Nothing. Silence. Everyone is staring at a screen. You begin to wonder why you bothered physically appearing at all. You could have been sitting at home doing the same thing – staring at a screen. You could have been chatting to these people via social media. Now that you’re actually there, they won’t say anything to you.
Sometimes even the presence of a phone in a place can distract one from what’s happening. We fail to notice cues in our immediate surroundings because we’re too focused – on the next alert or notification.
Effects on Mental Health and Self-Esteem
You’ve refreshed your new status 5 times and still no likes. Feelings of despondency start creeping in. This is how social media can bring someone down who is already suffering from low self-esteem. To make matters worse, most social media platforms create an environment that is based on visual ratings of people. This is particularly detrimental to young women. Many studies have shown the effects of social media on body image and self-esteem are dire.
Girls are affected very adversely by the relentless exposure to images that portray cosmetically-altered bodies and other unrealistic ideals. This has caused significantly high levels of dissatisfaction with physical appearance in girls, leading to eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive eating.
The rating-based environment created by social media leads to an excessive focus and link between self-esteem, social belonging, and body image. Women are bombarded with images of perfect bodies, perfect faces, and perfect makeup, causing severe depression because they are misled into believing that this is reality and they just don’t measure up so all of these other seemingly ‘perfect’ females. They waste time and effort trying to appear beautiful instead of focusing on what really counts – obtaining useful knowledge and working on competencies that will make them a demand in the labour market. It is professional growth and the ability to command a good salary that really drive self-esteem up, not appearance, but you’d never know it by looking at social media ruled, obviously, by the likes of the Kardashian clan.
Constant Connectivity is Doing More Harm than Good
As people who are well-versed in psychology, we know that connecting with others is a basic human need. However, being constantly connected via social media is not doing anyone any favours. First of all, this is not a true human connection. There is no emotional attachment. According to Jaimie Bloch, psychologist and clinical director, constant connectivity is having adverse effects on relationships, mental health, and physical health. The pressure of having to be always available and responsive can result in overwhelming anxiety. A person is under constant pressure to deliver content, manage and monitor what they’re sharing, and receive and make responses. The efforts can create intense feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety in many social media users.
Effects on Physical Health
Phones are being used far too close to bedtime, which is having an adverse effect on the quality of our sleep. Electronic devices emit blue light, which makes our brains think it is daytime. It is then harder to fall asleep because the brain releases “day” hormones that keep us wakeful and alert.
Addiction to social media can lead people to stay up late and keep them from getting quality sleep. Jaimie Bloch recommends that people set time limits on social media use before going to bed. Other experts recommend we stop using our phones and turn the TV off at least an hour before hitting the sack.
Scrolling through social media while lying in bed can increase the length and frequency of sleep disturbances. The combination of distraction, blue light, and strong emotions all work together to disrupt sleep. In the morning, we feel tired and sluggish.
4 Tips to Cut Down on Social Media Use
1. Let go of the “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO)
One common reason people overuse social media is because of fear of missing out on fun, interesting things, and probably most of all.. connection to people, and also thinking that other people are living a more exciting life than your own and that you’re missing out on all the life experiences that they are doing. In fact, this FOMO is so common that it now goes by the name of FOMO (fear of missing out). This is an irrational fear, but it can be a persistent one. The truth of the matter is that it will be easier to focus on your daily tasks without notifications because you won’t be getting distracted all the time. Alerts and notices are a constant reminder that something is going on, pressuring you to stay connected so you don’t miss out. To help overcome this kind of FOMO, make sure you make time to connect to people in person, organise involvement in fun activities that do not involve social media/screen use, and remember to keep your focus on your own life rather than thinking and worrying about what everyone else is doing with their own lives and comparing your life to theirs.
2. Find out What is Beyond Social Media
What is beyond social media? The real world, that’s what. With all its pros and cons, ups and downs. The world we really live in. Quench your thirst for social connection by actually connecting with REAL people in real life. You could join a club, go to a concert, or just invite some friends over. Whatever it is you decide to do, you’ll be connecting with people in reality. When you do, be present and talking with the people you are with. Put the tablet and phone away, and also put your thoughts about what could be coming through your phone (e.g., notifications) when you’re with these real people away too, and allow yourself to fully engage with these people in front of you. This will give you more genuine connection and fulfilment that you’re looking for than any Smartphone app will ever give you.
The main reason we turn to social media is boredom and disconnection from real people. We are yearning for variety in our lives, and deeper connection to others. This is because we’re too busy at work or at home, or have too much to study all the time that we’re bored and deprived of real connection with people. Attack addiction by organising activities that you could engage in. You’d be surprised at how much free time you have when you stop scrolling through your newsfeed.
3. Make checking your social media a treat
Cut down on social media use and reward yourself for it. When we’re constantly checking our phone, we lose the enjoyment of it but we still keep picking up the phone looking for the same reward that we never seem to get. When you check your Facebook only once a day instead of five times, it’ll start being like a treat. You’ll have a lot of notifications to look forward to. This will make the experience of using social media more fun and more rewarding, and will allow you time in your day and weeks to spend on other far more enjoyable and rewarding activities.
4. Set Limits on Use
People need to set limits for themselves when they feel their social media use is starting to morph into an addiction and do damage. Set a timer on your phone or watch or somewhere else. Do this slowly, gradually, in phases. Start by finding out how much time you spend on social media sites now, and reduce it by 15 minutes a day. In around 10 days, reduce it even further. Ideally, it should be brought down to 30 minutes a day. You can use the iPhone ‘Screen Time’ app that allows you to set time limits for certain types of apps and also allows you to view how much time you are spending each day and past 7 days on certain types of apps and individual apps. You can then use this measure of your use to reward yourself for less use.
Start taking how much time you spend on your phone seriously, and work towards reducing the amount you use it. Be real with yourself about how much you are using your phone and how much it is causing a problem for your mental health and personal life. Start spending more time with your friends and relatives in the real world. Your loved ones and your ability to do fun things in life won’t be around forever. Don’t wait for addiction to take your life over – do something about it now. If you’re still having difficulties with social media use, feel free to bring it up in your next session with me and we can go over strategies, or if you haven’t seen me before, you’re welcome to book in an initial appointment to come and see me to discuss your concerns.