Facebook and Instagram have recently announced modifications to their apps, in an effort to control social media addiction among their users. The move comes amid growing concern over lost productivity and real-world social skills due to people spending far too much time online. But what does it mean to be a social media addict?
Interestingly, while social media has been measured to be more intensely addictive than alcohol or cigarettes, there is still no formal clinical diagnosis that can label a person as being a social media addict.
But most experts agree that social media addiction is a serious issue, falling under the category of behavioural addiction. This term refers to an over-dependency on a particular activity, which leads to adverse effects. A person may be in need of social media addiction treatment if their online habits become compulsive or interfere with their ability to live a normal and healthy life.
People get a rush of dopamine when they post, share or ‘like’ something online. The same thing happens when someone uses addictive drugs, as the limbic brain is flooded with dopamine with each hit. Although chemical hooks are a real component to drug addiction, other behavioural or process addiction such as gambling, sex and internet addiction are no less real despite being chemical-free. Studies have shown that those suffering from social media addiction suffer genuine psychological withdrawal symptoms when they stop using social networks.
With that in mind, let us look at some warning signs for people who spend a lot of time online. If you or someone you know fits the following description, it is worth considering entering social media addiction rehab.
Social Media Lifestyles: The 7 Habits of Highly Addicted People
- You log in very often, wasting time with unproductive browsing. If you check social media first thing in the morning, and check it again and again throughout the day, you may be a candidate for social media addiction treatment. Social media in itself is not harmful, but it carries a heavy opportunity cost. Each moment you spend on social media is time that could have been spent more usefully elsewhere, including socialising in the real world.
- You constantly check your notifications and update your status. This kind of compulsive behaviour indicates a powerful urge to receive attention, and social media sites like Facebook and Instagram have very sophisticated ways of providing it. It can be hard to break the cycle of obsessing over notifications and updates, but the inability to do so is a sign that you may be a social media addict.
- Social media functions as an escape from the real world. If stress and discomfort in the outside world can be too overbearing, many people seek refuge in the virtual community. But too much withdrawal can lead to unhealthy psychological habits, and social media addiction rehab may be necessary to bring your life back into balance.
- If you can’t get on social media, you get very agitated. If you become anxious over time spent away from your device, or without an internet connection, then your dependency on social media platforms may have gone beyond normal limits.
- You plan your social media posts in advance. If you go places just to take selfies there, and get distracted during daily activities by thinking about how you plan to describe them later on social media, then you may have trouble staying present and alert in your everyday life.
- You get upset when your posts online aren’t appreciated. If you are deeply troubled by online arguments, or when posts you’ve made get no interaction from your friends and followers, then you may be relying too heavily on online platforms for positive reinforcement. Popularity and attention are always nice to have, but they should not play a dominant role in our self-perception.
- Social media gets in the way of your real-life connections. Few of us would openly prefer Facebook to the real world. But step by step, and decision by decision, many of us make personal choices that systematically cut out our friends and family, replacing them with online avatars and status updates. A social media addict may have trouble maintaining close relationships with people around them in real life.
The Human Consequences of Social Media Addiction
Apart from the habits and emotional states outlined above, other symptoms can also help identify a person in need of social media addiction treatment. Social media provides quick gratification – but the pleasurable feelings disappear as quickly as they come, creating the need for another dopamine hit, and then another. This phenomenon leads to people experiencing less personal satisfaction in life, and a lower overall level of happiness.
Other forms of psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety often accompany the lifestyle of a social media addict, because approval and positive reinforcement – and therefore one’s own self-image – are in other people’s hands. If joy and self-worth come from outside, then the addicted person is no longer in control of their own happiness, and this feeling of disempowerment can be emotionally exhausting.
Getting Help for Internet Addiction
If you or someone you know is in need of social media addiction rehab, know that help is available. The Dawn Rehab offers group and individual therapy sessions from licensed behavioural addiction experts. Together, we can talk through addiction issues and provide support as well as guidance to a healthier and more wholesome lifestyle. Our holistic approach has proven highly effective for patients, and our 1:1 staff to client ratio ensures that you will receive personal help throughout your time with us.