What’s the first thing you do in the morning. Is it brush your teeth, take a shower, or eat breakfast? Or, is it pick up your phone and look at Social Media? I think the majority of people today, look at their social media profiles before they do anything else. But just how good for you is social media? How much is too much?
How Can We Know if We're Addicted?
How can we know if we're addicted? Technology has made us more connected than any time before in human history. I can send an email from my home to the other side of the world in a few seconds. Just a few hundred years ago, delivering a message from Europe to the United States would have taken a minimum three-month boat trip. But this connectivity has also made us very disconnected from each other.
In The Modern World of Technology
We live in society in which information is distributed at hyper-speed and anyone can have a social media platform to show just how “awesome” their lives are. People used to throw high school/college reunion to see what everyone’s been up to, but now that’s information is just a few clicks away. Influencers, youtuber, and gamers are all new jobs that didn’t exist fifteen years ago.
When we look at other people’s social media profiles, we inevitably end up comparing ourselves to others. Part of us wants to be happy for our friends, but there is a part of us that says I wish I had that. It’s hard not to be jealous of the person who just bought a house, when you just barely made the rent. We feel envious of the couple going taking their honeymoon in Europe, when your vacation consisted of staying at home binge watching Netflix. When we look at our social media platforms every day, we end up comparing ourselves to each other every day.
Social Media is Addictive!
Social Media is addictive! It is both physically and psychologically addictive. A study at Harvard University found that the same parts of the brain light up when using social media as they do when taking addictive substances (Addiction Center 1).
“The reward area in the brain and its chemical messenger pathways affect decisions and sensations. When someone experiences something rewarding, or uses an addictive substance, neurons in the principal dopamine-producing areas in the brain are activated, causing dopamine levels to rise.
Therefore, the brain receives a “reward” and associates the drug or activity with positive reinforcement. This is observable in social media usage; when an individual gets a notification, such as a like or mention, the brain receives a rush of dopamine and sends it along reward pathways, causing him or her to feel pleasure.” (Addiction Center 1)
Another way of saying it, every time you open up Facebook, Instagram, etc. and you see a red notification your brain gives you a small bit of dopamine. That small dopamine can become very addictive. So, addictive that it’s the first thing people check in the morning, the last thing they check at night, and something they continuously check throughout the day.
Regular Social Media and You, It's all An illusion.
Several studies have shown that regular (not overused, just regular) use of social media can lead to depression, low self-esteem, body image issues, anxiety, social isolation, eating disorders and self-harm behaviors (Fuller 1). When we look at social media you should keep a few things in mind:
1. Pictures can be easily manipulated. Camera angles and lighting can be adjusted to make things look much better than they do in real life.
2. The person posting stuff is only showing you a small and very edited version of their real lives. Someone may post nothing but happy pictures of themselves and their partner, but the same couple could be very unhappy when there is not camera around.
3. Just because you are where you are right now, doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way forever. Sometimes you have to go through the bad to get to the good. No life is 100% good and happy all the time
Are You Addicted?
So, how do we know if were addicted? Well, take the test below:
- Do you spend a lot of time thinking about social media or planning to use social media?
- Do you feel urges to use social media more and more?
- Do you use social media to forget about personal problems?
- Do you often try to reduce use of social media without success?
- Do you become restless or troubled if unable to use social media?
- Do you use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on his/her job or studies?
If you answered “yes” to a more than three of these questions, then you may have or be developing a social media addiction. (Test provided by Media Addiction 1).
What to Do About it
If we are addicted what can we do? Should we just delete all our social media accounts? Maybe we could just cut back on our screen time. Maybe we should just become social hermits and live in caves for the rest of our lives. Eliminating social media may be the best option, but it’s probably not a practical option for everyone. So how can we limit our social media interaction?
1. Put your phone down and out of reach: When you go to bed you should put your cell phone in another room or on a dresser that is out of reach. This will discourage you from looking at it just because your bored and stop you from staying up late.
2. When you’re with other people, make a commitment not to look at your phone. Looking at your phone while in a social gathering is just bad etiquette. Nobody wants to talk to the person who is always on their phone.
3. Track your time. There are plenty of apps that can track your social media time. I think many people would be surprised just how much time of their days are spent on social media.
4. Turn off your notifications. Nothing so important on social media platforms that it needs your immediate attention. If it is important someone will call or text you.
5. Set up days as Social Media Free Days. Take a Saturday or a Sunday Off.
Social media is a small part of our ever-growing and quickly expanding technology. And just like technology itself, it is neither good nor bad. It’s all in how we use it. Social media can bring large groups of diverse people from around the world together, reunite long lost friends, or just help us stay in touch with people we’ve met. But it can also be to make us feel like our lives are worse than everyone else, it can make us focus more on projecting the image of the life we want rather than the life we have. The most important thing about technology use is that the user is in control. We have the power to turn it off and on. And we should start using it more frequently.
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Fuller, Kristen, M.D. Psychology Today. “Social Media Breaks and Why they are Necessary” Date published: 7/1/2019 Date Accessed: 9/5/2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-is-state-mind/201907/social-media-breaks-and-why-they-are-necessary
Addiction Center. “Social Media Addiction” Date Accessed: 9/5/2020 https://www.addictioncenter.com/drugs/social-media-addiction/