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Is social media addiction a real thing?

Is social media addiction a real thing?

HARIDHA P 117 08-Dec-2022

What Is Addiction to Social Media?

The last ten years have seen a rise in the popularity of checking and browsing through social media. A minority percentage of users develop an addiction to social networking sites and use them excessively or compulsively, even if the majority of people's use of social media is not harmful. In reality, according to psychologists, 5 to 10% of Americans currently fulfill the criteria for social media addiction. The term 'social media addiction' refers to a behavioral addiction characterized by an excessive concern with social media, an uncontrollable want to access or use social media, and the expenditure of so much time and effort on social media that it interferes with other important elements of one's life.

Similar to any other drug use disorder, addictive social media use may present with symptoms such as mood modification (i.e., social media use results in a positive change in emotional states), salience (i.e., behavioral, cognitive, and emotional preoccupation with social media), tolerance (i.e., constant and increasing use of social media over time), withdrawal symptoms (i.e., unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms when social media use is curtailed or stopped), and salience  (i.e., addicted individuals quickly revert back to their excessive social media usage after an abstinence period).

How Social Media Impacts Brain Function

Social media is addicting on a physical and psychological level because of the impact it has on the brain. Self-disclosure on social networking sites activates the same region of the brain as using addictive drugs, according to a recent Harvard University study. Decisions and emotions are influenced by the brain's reward region and the chemical messengers it uses. Dopamine levels increase when someone engages in rewarding behavior or consumes an addictive substance because dopamine neurons in the main brain regions responsible for generating dopamine are engaged. As a result, the medication or action is associated with positive reinforcement and the brain receives a 'reward.'

An Addiction To Social Media: How To Spot It

Despite the fact that many individuals use social media on a regular basis, very few are actually addicted. Ask the following 6 questions to see if someone is at risk of becoming addicted to social media:

  • Do they regularly consider or make plans to use social media?
  • Do they feel more and more compelled to use social media?
  • Do people use social media to put their private problems in the past?
  • Do they regularly attempt to minimize their use of social media but fail?
  • Do kids become anxious or restless if they are unable to use social media?
  • Do they use social media in a way that interferes with their study or employment?

If you checked off more than three of them, you may be addicted to social media.

A digital detox, which is a period of time in which a person dramatically cuts back on the amount of time they spend using electronic devices like smartphones or laptops, can be a good precaution. This can be done by taking small actions like turning off sound notifications and simply checking social media sites once every hour. Other adjustments could include setting aside time during the day for self-imposed screen-free activities, such as during mealtimes, or putting the phone away from the bed at night so as not to disrupt rest. As a result, social engagement in the real world can once again be the main focus, and reliance on social networking sites is decreased.


A passionate writer, blogger, language trainer, co-author of the book 'Irenic' and an enthusiastic learner. Interest includes travelling places and exploring.

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