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Understanding Social Media Addiction

man falling in a phone depicting social media addiction

If you constantly check your social media, even when driving, eating out with friends, or watching a movie, this behavior may be impairing or endangering your life. Although social media addiction is not currently a diagnosable disorder according to medical literature, many users describe themselves as “addicted” to social media.

Social media addiction is defined as a compulsive need to log onto social media even when it negatively impacts safety, relationships, work or studies, health, or other important areas of life.

Recent surveys show 45 percent of the global population uses social media daily. Usage is most prevalent among young people, with over 90 percent of millennials utilizing various social media platforms regularly.

Signs of Social Media Addiction

Addiction to social media looks a lot like addiction to drugs or alcohol. The behavior often causes a euphoric lift in mood and is characterized by a preoccupation with the activity, a desire to spend increasingly longer periods of time engaged in the activity and negative emotional withdrawal symptoms when the behavior stops.

A Harvard University study found social media usage triggers the reward center of the brain, causing an increase in dopamine levels. This positive reinforcement of the behavior is similar to the effects caused by drug or alcohol use, encouraging the user to repeat the activity.

The study also found the reward center is most active when people are talking about themselves, as opposed to commenting on someone else. When a user receives positive feedback on something they have posted, the brain delivers a strong sense of pleasure.

Warning signs you may be overusing social media

Although your use of social media may not qualify as an addiction, it may be causing problems in your life. This is especially significant if you are using the behavior to cope with loneliness, stress, anxiety or depression.

If you answer yes to several or all of the following questions, it is important to talk to your physician or a therapist.

Do you:

  • Spend a lot of time using or thinking about using social media?
  • Find yourself using social media for an increasingly greater percentage of your waking hours?
  • Use social media to avoid personal problems or negative situations?
  • Tell yourself you will cut down on social media usage but are unsuccessful?
  • Get anxious, restless or upset when you are unable to use social media?
  • Recognize any negative effects social media usage has had on your job, studies, health or personal relationships? Is your usage linked to risky behavior?

Social Media Detox

Take a break from constant social media use. Turn off notifications and pre-plan how often you will check the sites or apps. Refrain from using social media during meals or during social gatherings. Turn your phone off when you are sleeping. Do not have the phone within reach when driving.

If you are unable to control social media usage on your own, or if you have determined you’ve been using social media to distract you from problems or negative emotions, it is important to seek professional help.

Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department at 813-882-3003, 800-397-3006 or admissions@tpoftampa.com.