Over the last decade, social media has grown in popularity. Although most people use social media, a small percentage of users have become addicted to social media platforms and engage in excessive or compulsive use. We attribute excessive interest in social platforms to social media addiction. It’s an uncontrollable urge to log onto social media to check or use the press frequently, impairing other important life areas.
Social media addiction, like any other substance use disorder, can cause mood changes. It also entails changes in emotional states, salience, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, conflict, and relapse.
Social media addiction attributes to the dopamine-inducing social environments provided by social networks. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, generate the same neural circuitry as recreational drugs and gambling, which keeps customers using their products.
However, studies show that the constant retweets, likes, and shares on social media platforms cause the brain’s reward area to trigger the same reaction seen with drugs like cocaine. Neuroscientists have compared social media addiction to injecting a syringe of dopamine into a body system.
Effects of Social Media
According to a Harvard University study, social media sites activate the same part of the brain activated when using an addictive substance. The reward area of the brain and its chemical messenger pathways influence decisions and sensations.
When someone uses an addictive substance, neurons in the brain’s main dopamine-producing areas are activated, and dopamine levels rise. The brain then receives a reward, and the drug or activity is associated with positive reinforcement. As a result, social media is physically and psychologically addictive.
Observations made while using social media show that when an individual receives a notification, the brain gets a rush of dopamine and sends it along reward pathways, causing a feeling of pleasure. Through its seemingly limitless supply of immediate rewards as attention from others for relatively little effort, the brain rewires through positive reinforcement, causing people to desire social media reactions, such as retweets, likes, and comments, among others.
The fact about social media addiction is that when people talk about themselves, the brain’s reward centres activate. For example, when a person posts a picture on social media, the brain stimulates to release dopamine, which rewards that behavior.
When a person uses social media as a coping mechanism to relieve loneliness, stress, or depression, the platform becomes problematic. Individuals engage with social media because it provides continuous rewards that they do not receive in real life.
It eventually leads to a slew of interpersonal issues, such as ignoring real-life relationships, school and work responsibilities, and poor physical health, all of which exacerbate an individual’s negative moods. It causes people to engage in social networking behavior to relieve dysphoric mood states. Social media users repeat the cyclical pattern of using social media to ease their undesirable moods. The level of psychological dependence on social media increases.
Who is at Risk?
According to estimates, 27% of children who spend over three hours a day on social media have symptoms of poor mental health. Children and young adults are vulnerable to excessive social media use because their brains and social skills are still developing.
While adolescents who use social media regularly from a young age have poor social interaction skills regardless of the platform interactions, they do not translate well to the real world.
According to a survey, such individuals had worsened social anxiety in groups, higher rates of depression, negative body image, and lower levels of empathy and compassion towards others.
Effects of Social Media on Mental Health
According to research, social media use associates with poor mental health and low self-esteem. Regardless of the platform’s benefits, frequent use can make people feel unhappy and isolated because the platforms compare material and lifestyle.
Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, for example, share curated content designed to appeal to users’ interests, such as beautiful homes, cars, phones, great jobs, and partners, among others.
Recent studies, however, have found that frequent social media users believe other people are happier and more successful than them, yet they do not know them in real life. Social media allows some people to compare their offline lives to the flawless, filtered, and edited life versions on social media, which affect mental health.
Excessive use of social media can increase the risk of developing mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, leading to self-consciousness and the need for perfection, which manifests as a social anxiety disorder.
The desire to gain likes on social media has influenced the exposure of teenagers’ bodies, who change their appearance to unrealistic beauty standards via social platforms.
The extreme fear of missing out (FOMO) triggers social anxiety created by not being included or missing out on social events or interactions. It takes its toll on their self-esteem and compulsive checking of social media platforms to ensure they are updated on the surrounding happenings.
Harvard University conducted a study and found that social media has a significant detrimental effect on the emotional well-being of chronic users and their lives, which later negatively affects their real-life relationships and academic achievement. Teenage girls and boys are vulnerable to cyberbullying via social media and face-to-face bullying; the spreading and posting of non-consensual explicit pictures, a form of cyberbullying that has gained popularity in recent years. This has increased suicide rates among young adults.
According to a study conducted by California State University, individuals who visited any social media platform at least 58 times per week were three times more likely to feel socially isolated and depressed than those who used social media less than nine times per week.
How to Know if a Social Media Addict
Are you wondering if you might have developed social media addiction? There are a few questions you should ask yourself to find out.
- Do you spend a significant amount of time thinking about or planning to use social media?
- Do you feel compelled to use social media more frequently?
- Do you use social media to avoid dealing with personal issues?
- Do you frequently try, but fail, to reduce your use of social media?
- Do you become agitated or distressed if you cannot use social media?
- Do you spend so much time on social media that it interferes with your job or studies?
If it is a YES to any of the above questions, you might be addicted to social media or are slipping into the addiction zone.
How to Deal with Social Media Addiction
A few solutions might be helpful. Social media addiction can be avoided by limiting time spent on electronic devices such as smartphones.
Simple measures such as turning off sound notifications, checking social media platforms for a short time, and having self-imposed non-screen periods during the day, such as during meal times, will help restore focus on interactions in the physical world and reduce reliance on social media platforms.
In the comment section below, let us know what can help others overcome or prevent social media addiction.