Social media is our go-to for daily human interaction nowadays. Where else would we document our achievements, interests, and favourites? But as the elders have been warning us, too much of a good thing can be harmful. Here enters social media addiction. It is a behavioural addiction where individuals feel compulsive and excessive need to check their social media pages and spend inordinate amounts of time on the platforms to the point that it affects their healthy lives.
|| Pratyasha Sharma
Don’t be alarmed, however, if you are spending most of the day scrolling through memes. Addiction is much more severe. It is akin to substance abuse, where the addict loses all sense of self-control.
A social media addiction manifests itself in the following ways:
Impulsive need to check notifications every few minutes
Most of us only check our notifications when we are tagged in a post or someone texts us. Addicts often refresh the notifications page, read every single comment on a post, and check every single like or react on their posts. FOMO (fear of missing out) has been a real concern of late, where people express anxiety about not being invited or being unable to participate in a supposedly important event. It can cause severe crippling anxiety and self-esteem issues.
Craving validation on the internet
It is easier to receive friendship and support through the internet due to constant connectivity. But an addict starts perceiving affection and validation only through the response of people on their social media feeds, instead of pursuing real-life connections. The increasingly popular habit of doing certain things merely because they are “grammable” is a definite sign of addiction.
Need to update every detail
This is a bit alarming as youngsters are often seen over sharing on Facebook or Instagram, documenting every tiny detail of their lives via stories and posts. It is not only proof of their dependence on these sites but also a danger to their privacy and security.
Indulging in inappropriate behavior
There is a thin line between admiration and obsession. “Stalking” people on social media in the name of appreciation has become immensely popular nowadays. Obsessing over someone else’s life is in no way helpful. It creates negative expectations from one’s own experiences, leading to insecurities, jealousy, etc.
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms
It is relatively more comfortable to sit on the internet the whole day when we are on vacation, but addicts may experience withdrawal symptoms during work hours. Symptoms such as the foggy brain, inability to concentrate, hearing imaginary buzzes, and general restlessness are some classic signs of an addiction.
Psychologists have noticed a higher trend of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and ADHD in people who spend excessive time online. There is also noted the conflict in interpersonal relationships, with instances of an addict choosing self-isolation over real-life interactions. Teenagers and young adults are seen to be more prone to developing eating disorders and body-image issues as a result of social media addiction.
Addiction also has a detrimental effect on physical health, causing defects in vision due to the constant straining of the eye muscles, fatigue, and sleep disorders. Several studies have shown that migrainous headaches are more intense in addicts, carpal tunnel syndrome is more commonly seen, and lack of exercise may lead to weight issues such as obesity.
Social media platforms are designed to entice users into spending more time on them by creating dopamine-driven feedback loops. The brain perceives the increased dopamine levels as a reward and associates long hours of social media interaction as a positive phenomenon. Before long, it becomes a coping mechanism to deal with stress, loneliness, or personal life failures. And then, an addiction is born.
Breaking out of this addiction requires a lot of willpower, patience, and assistance. Currently, rehabilitation programs include-
- Finding other sources of positive reinforcement such as hobbies, exercise, and meditation.
- Progressive weaning off of social media.
- Restricting usage to fixed hours.
- Some severe cases even require complete “online detox.”
While we may not be suffering from a full-blown addiction, it is a good idea to restrict social media usage to specific hours. It increases productivity, improves mood, and will potentially save us a ton of time. With cyber-bullying and cancel culture on the rise, younger users should have other outlets of interaction. Moreover, social media interactions can be made more positive and less stressful by practicing mindful scrolling, avoiding overshare, and being respectful and kind. A little reminder to be acknowledged daily is- our self worth is not dependent on what others think of us. Social media is a means of communication, not a measure of our worth.