Social Media Addiction Guide: Why Is Social Media Addicting?

Have you been out and about lately and noticed people walking while looking down at their phones? Or a couple out to dinner both looking down at their phones instead of each other? Chances are, they are reading through their newsfeed on Facebook, checking Twitter or Instagram, or scrolling through Tinder.

The use of popular social networking platforms like these has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, leading researchers to wonder what kind of impact overuse of social media is having on our lives.

Internet addiction does not have an official place in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the guide by which mental health professionals classify psychological disorders). However, it is certainly a condition that warrants further clinical research for potential inclusion as a recognized disorder.


Why Is Social Media So Addictive?

There are a variety of causes of social media addiction, but one of the main reasons for addictive behavior surrounding social media nowadays is how it stimulates the brain’s reward center.

This means anytime you are checking social media or receiving likes, your brain is secreting dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter in the brain’s reward and pleasure center. Eventually, your brain begins to crave more and more dopamine and you can feel tempted to spend a growing amount of time checking your social media.

Another leading reason behind the overuse of social media is due to a phenomenon known as FOMO (fear of missing out). This term refers to individuals that are constantly wondering if something more exciting is going on at any given moment. This thought process drives the individual to constantly check social media.

Social media can also function as a world unto itself, creating the ideal place for individuals to procrastinate or avoid social interaction.

Young adults and teens are especially susceptible to the negative effects of social media. Having been raised in the age of digital technology, social media, and the internet, technology is often an indispensable aspect of their lives.

As opposed to the younger generation, the majority of adults remember how life was prior to the internet, mobile devices, and social media. This makes it easier to disconnect and step away from social media. However, even some adults — especially those with existing mental health concerns or addictive behavior — are finding it hard to escape the pull of social media.


The Dangers of Comparison on Social Media Platforms

Social media nowadays strongly tempts us to compares ourselves to other people.

For individuals with issues surrounding self-esteem and insecurity, constantly hearing about other people’s successes and joys can worsen feelings of inferiority. In some cases, an individual may even struggle with feelings of anxiety or depression.

It is too easy to forget that social media platforms are simply a highlight reel, not an accurate representation of the lives of others. Just as photos and models in magazines can be airbrushed, social media posts can be heavily edited and idealized, leading to an over exaggerated reality.

Numerous clinical professionals have found symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders in individuals who cannot stop social media addiction.


How Do I Know If I Am Addicted to Social Media?

Addiction is generally defined as compulsive behavior that results in unwanted side effects. Most addictions involve individuals who feel compelled to engage in certain activities, even if these activities interfere with important daily activities or have a negative impact on their life.

Given this context, a social media addict can be considered an individual with a strong compulsion to use social media excessively. This could be constantly checking your Facebook status to see how many likes it has received, relentlessly “stalking” the profiles of people you may or may not know, playing games for hours on end, or a host of other scenarios.

If you are worried you may have an addiction to social media, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you frequently think about using social media?
  • Do you find yourself wanting to use social media more often?
  • Have you tried reducing your social media usage without success?
  • Do you use social media platforms to improve your mood or forget your problems?
  • Do you feel troubled, uncomfortable, or restless if you cannot use social media?
  • Has your social media usage had a negative impact on your career, relationships, school, or life in general?
  • Have you lost interest in other activities you used to enjoy?

If you answered yes to several or all of these questions, you may be facing an addiction to social media. If you suspect a social media addiction, it is important to meet with a clinical psychiatrist or psychologist for proper diagnosis.


How To Overcome Social Media Addiction

If you are wondering how to overcome social media addiction, read on for 7 tips to help stop social media addiction.


1. Track Your Time –

Track your social media usage to see exactly how much time you are spending online. The number might shock you. The first step to changing behavior is having a thorough acceptance and understanding of the problem.


2. Undergo a Digital Detox –

For many individuals, the urge to check social media is an automatic reflex that has turned into a habit. Avoiding it for even a few minutes may prove difficult.

For these individuals, it is important to start slowly by avoiding any social media for 15 minutes. Continue increasing the length of time you avoid social media, eventually working your way up to 60 minutes, an hour, two hours, and more. Do this until you can comfortably spend several hours a day without social media.


3. Set Screen Limits –

Set aside certain places or times of day to be technology free. For example:

  • Do not bring your tablet or smartphone to the table
  • Set a window of time aside each night for preparing and eating dinner with your family
  • Do not bring your phone into restaurants
  • Do not use your phone at family gatherings
  • Turn your phone off during movies to eliminate the urge to be constantly checking social media
  • Do not bring your phone or tablet into the bedroom


4. Find a Different Alarm Clock or Watch –

Using your tablet or phone as an alarm clock or watch means you are automatically exposed to technology upon waking up or checking the time and faced with temptation.


5. Find Activities That Frown on technology –

Engage in activities that prevent social media usage such as jogging, swimming, or meditating. Also, consider making a point to hang out in wi-fi free areas or places that frown on social media usage such as group fitness classes or places of worship.

For social interaction, make your digital detox a game. For example, if you are out to eat with friends, the first one to check their phone has to buy dessert for everyone else.


6. Spread the Word –

Inform your friends, family, and coworkers that you are undergoing a digital detox. The people you spend the most time with can help keep you accountable and offer you support.


7. Find Alternative Activities –

To ease the difficulty of your digital detox, be sure to find alternative activities to keep you distracted. Find activities that are physically, spiritually, or psychologically rewarding such as getting together with friends, long walks, reading, painting, or any activity you enjoy.


Final Thoughts

While there is no magic bullet to stop social media addiction, there are ways to get it under control. Consider trying out just one or two of the tips mentioned above to get started in your fight against the causes of social media addiction.

If you find it too hard to address your social media addiction, a licensed psychiatrist or addiction specialist can help you learn how to manage your problem.