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Is Social Media Addiction Real?

Is Social Media Addiction Real?

According to a Pew 2015 smartphone report, 93 percent of adults aged 18 to 29 admit to using their smartphone to avoid boredom. 47 percent of smartphone users say they use their smartphones to avoid talking to people around them. Lastly, 46 percent of smartphone users say they could not live without their smartphone. What does this mean for phone users? Does every person with a smartphone run the risk of becoming addicted to their device? Shockingly or not, the answer can be summed up as “no”.

One person’s Twitter is another person’s addiction

Journalist Sarah Kessler’s experience with social media therapy was quite eye opening. With an explosion of “social media sickness” news and talk of how many of us are addicted to our phones, this study brought us back to the point that we are all people who love interaction and social media just happens to be a form of that. The article It shows that while most of us understand that social media has independently invaded almost every aspect of our daily lives, just like any other addiction it really depends on the individual.

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Sure, everyone could benefit from distancing themselves from social media from time to time, but because of work many of us depend on these forums in order to complete our daily tasks. Just because someone is checking social media for work, does not equate to addiction. Comparable to other studies done on the subject of television and video game addiction the results vary largely from one person to another. Now, someone who misses work, loses sleep, and destroys relationships because of one medium or another is a completely different story. Using the word “addiction” for someone who checks their phone multiple times in a day is not a fair assessment.  As the old adage goes, “everything is fine in moderation” for most folks.

Sarah’s social media addiction therapist suggested that social media interaction is just another piece of a whole person. Just the same as someone mentioning a conversation that bothered them to their therapist, patients are now mentioning issues that have occurred on one social media platform or another – “he liked her picture and that bothered me” or “I wasn’t invited to their facebook event”. This doesn’t necessarily mean that someone affected by these social media behaviors is addicted. Additional analysis would be needed to determine if someone can in fact separate themselves, their thoughts and feelings, from social media. In the examples above, as a general statement, those not affected by addiction should be able to relate to that person outside of social media in “real world” context and say “he liked her picture because I know that they are friends” or “maybe they forgot to invite me to their facebook event”. This goes without saying, many people are unable to make these types of connections even before social media is introduced into their lives.

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Addiction is a serious mental illness

For some, social media can absolutely instigate a form of interaction and behavior that is disembodied from their normal social selves. Generalizing that all social media creates bad habits and negative thinking is not accurate and has not been proven. Of course, as with any other type of interaction, people choose to act in positive or negative ways. This may be influenced by the comments or reactions of others within an individual’s social media family, but unsavory behavior for some does not translate to the same type of behavior for all.

None of this is to say that social media addiction is not real, because it is. The thing to understand is that in many cases of addiction other mental illnesses are present that perpetuate one form of addiction or another. Facebook does not cause addiction, mental illness causes addiction. Just as some are able to have one or two drinks in an evening and others must drink more because of their illness. Although it is unjust to compare true substance abuse to television or media, the basic concept is the same. Many things in life can be habit forming.

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Overconsumption, obsession, consequences, and withdrawal are signs of a true addiction. Everyone browses the web now and then, but someone who has little time in the day for any other activities may have a problem. If social media is a constant topic of discussion with others and a need to be on social media envelops a person’s thoughts they might need help. A huge sign of dependency for any addict includes loss of relationships, loss of interest in other hobbies and work, and loss of care that their addiction is ruining their life. Finally, when the person is absent from their addiction they will show signs of withdrawal – irritability, expressing a “need” for the addiction, etc.

A smartphone in the hand of any person does not mean that addiction is imminent. Many other factors work cohesively in order to put together the puzzle that is our mental health. Setting boundaries with any activity is a healthy practice for any person that wants to discourage unhealthy habits from forming.

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Featured photo credit: Pabak Sarkar/Flickr via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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