Social media addiction can affect your mood, relationships, and real-time living, and social media does not seem to afford the depth and breadth of communication necessary to facilitate healthy social relationships. Families are feeling the lack of connection due to the excessive amount of time spent on social media and we are finding there is less interaction between parents and children, siblings, and couples, while we connect with people who we often hardly know. Children and adolescents may feel the brunt of this addiction in the form of loneliness and depression and this may result in them not understanding peer emotions or being able to develop meaningful personal relationships.

Some noteworthy social media addiction statistics:

  • Out of the 3.1 billion active social media users, an estimated 210 million may suffer from social media and Internet addiction.
  • According to the American Psychological Association, adolescents spending close to 5 hours on social media were likely to exhibit depressive symptoms twice as much frequently as those spending an hour per day.
  • 45% of people spend time on social media platforms instead of sleeping.

Is social media addiction an actual disorder?

Internet culture has revolutionized the world. It has affected social culture and norms, work, education, economics, and politics across the globe. Social media has been an enormous influencer of our lives this past decade but has also been shown to produce a variety of mental health and social problems. While social media addiction falls under the general category of Internet addiction, it is so prevalent in its over-use that some classify it as an addiction unto itself.

Sites like Myspace and LinkedIn were introduced in the early 2000s; the addition of Facebook, YouTube and, Instagram, and others, have created a new means to connect, advertise, and reach people—all in the guise of social connection. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Social media is not actually all that social, and may, in fact, encourage us to view, post, rate, and rank ourselves and others– almost to the exclusion of engaging in anything that is social connective and intimate. And because many social media sites are designed to provide likes and comments intermittently, they encourage an addictive form of usage-based on intermittent reinforcement and social validation looping.

The extent to which social media addiction is formally recognized is still in its nascent stages; however, spending excessive amounts of time on social media may be harmless until it starts to eat up a considerable portion of your waking hours. Even without official recognition for social media addiction as a unique disorder, it clearly correlates to an unhealthy pattern of using social media platforms to a point of some negative life impact.

Research has cited three factors in the appeal of social media:

  • The pleasure of the experience of self-disclosure
  • Perceived connection—makes a person feel less lonely or isolated
  • Recognition/reward–increases self-worth of a person, and likely elevates dopamine via social validation loops

What are some of the possible signs and symptoms?

While everyone does not have the same signs, symptoms, or negative impacts, there are some red flags for social media use that might be cause for concern:

  • A tendency to constantly check notifications, likes, and reactions to posts
  • Feeling anxious when a network is down, or connectivity is an issue
  • Involving social media in every instance of life, including your work or school time
  • Feeling disconnected from real-world friends and family
  • Feeling compelled to record and post your life and at times missing real-time experiences just so you can record it so it may be posted and potentially liked.

According to research published by California State University, a person who visits social media sites 58 times per week was 3 times more likely to feel socially isolated compared to those visiting less than 9 times per week. Like other process or behavioral addictions, one might suffer some withdrawal feelings and symptoms, such as: feeling depressed, lonely, or irritated when he/she stops using social media suddenly.  Other studies have shown increased risks for cyber bullying, lower self-esteem, and a reduction of social empathy. There also appears to be a potential relationship between excessive social media use and several mental health issues, including depression.

How do you treat social media addiction?

To address many of the problems listed above, it may be necessary to undergo a digital detox with the help of a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other behavioral health clinicians in a dedicated treatment program. These experts will help you understand the extent of addiction and its consequences and then suggest treatment various options and strategies. Addressing triggers and how to manage the urge and use habits will be key. Treatment involves reducing screen time, limiting the use of social media, and developing a mindful/sustainable pattern of use.

What are some steps that can be taken to control the use of social media?

  • Set a fixed amount of time for using social media platforms
  • Switch off the notifications for these apps
  • Delete unnecessary social media apps
  • Unplug yourself from viewing and responding to social media posts
  • Appreciate yourself when you refrain from using social media for a particular time frame
  • Keep yourself busy by developing other real-time hobbies
  • Talk to family and friends daily
  • Try meditation and mindfulness
  • Exercise regularly
  • Evaluate your social media use and try to reduce the amount of time on social media by setting a limit for your daily use
  • Develop a values-based approach to what your goals or desires are and then examine how your social media and screen use fits in toward enhancing or limiting accomplishment of these goals
  • Remember that social media is but one way to connect to friends and family

How we can help?

The Greenfield Recovery Center has designed programs to help individuals overcome Internet and technology addiction, including social media. Located on 19 acres of private woodlands, we provide a natural setting for healing and learning how to live a balanced life with technology.