Nowadays, if you’re not on social media, you feel like you’re not truly living in the 21st century. Everything from businesses to personal and professional relationships, social media has a strong presence—and with that, a luring temptation to spend even more time using its features.
While it still provides platforms where we can connect with friends and family, it has exponentially grown to an online version of the Vegas strip: advertisements, videos, and links inviting us to turn our attention to the next latest and greatest trend or product.
According to a recent article by Forbes, having a potent social media strategy is critical for businesses and consumers alike. We make a tremendous amount of purchasing decisions based on content provided to us via social media channels.
Likewise, we also tend to “follow the flock” when it comes to new trends, ideas, fashion, and unfortunately, even politics. While the positive side of social media is that we now have more freedom of expression, the shadow side is still just as present: we can easily lose our sense of individuality.
Social media is a slippery slope—and one that often takes a bit of time and consequence to realize and change. This is why the term “social media addiction” has taken root in the health and wellness industry as one of the causes of mental health issues.
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Social Media Addiction and How It Affects Health
How we use social media has drastically changed since the dawn of websites like Facebook. Initially, Facebook’s platform was a simple way of connecting with friends and family and posting cheesy pictures or status updates on Facebook’s “wall.”
Over time, however, with the emergence of a more picture-oriented platform like Instagram, we upped the ante. This is where the slippery slope emerged, and we’re still dealing with it presently.
Take a look at some of the most popular Instagram profiles today. You’ll likely see a pattern of manicured photos and perfect layouts, followed by millions of users. This has become an “Instagram goal,” and it perpetuates the idea that beautiful pictures equate to a happy user. We know that’s simply not the case, but this mentality and desire to create a perfect life online for all to see is feeding depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
Likewise, it’s causing us to lose our sense of authenticity and realness because the “real world” problems don’t make for beautiful social media posts. Instead, we hide behind the beauty that’s only covering up our sadness, grief, or loneliness. Because we’ve carefully created our online world, we’ve stepped out of our real one. Social media addiction is this practice of escapism.
The Medical Term for Social Media Addiction
Although there is no medical term or diagnosis for social media addiction, it is said to fall under Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD). IAD is known to be problematically excessive social media use/ internet use or pathological internet use which may cause an impairment of an individual’s ability to perform in their daily life.
Studies have shown that IAD is prevalent in young adults as they have been exposed to the vices of digitalization the most.
Signs of Social Media Addiction
Before we move on to eliminate social media addiction, we first need to identify if someone suffers from it. To do this, there are a few indicators that you can keep a lookout for if you suspect a loved one is being plagued by social media addiction.
- The first thing they do after waking up is to check up on their social networking apps.
- They cannot help but sneak in social media time during work hours.
- They get anxious thinking about what would be going on during the times they aren’t able to access the platforms.
- They are constantly keeping track of the performance of their posts made on the platforms.
- They spend an unhealthy amount of time planning their social media posts.
- They can constantly hear their phone buzz when there have been no notifications.
- They neglect hobbies, relationships, and responsibilities in order to spend a little more time on their social media.
Types of Social Media Addiction
Social media addiction is a broader term that encompasses a wide range of behaviors and impulse-control problems that may involve the use of social media platforms. Although there has been no absolute authority to diagnose a patient with social media addiction, through the trends observed in our daily life, it can safely be assumed that a lot of our loved ones might be suffering from it.
If you or someone around you is addicted to social media usage, before looking for a fix, you need to specify the type of addiction the concerned person might be suffering from.
Here are the 5 most common types of internet and social media addictions that you need to be on the lookout for.
1. Net Compulsions
Net Compulsions refers to the unhealthy obsession with online gambling, shopping, forex trading, and auctions. These activities are extremely harmful as they not only have a negative impact on your mental wellbeing but can implicate you financially as well. Spending or losing excessive amounts of money can destroy your financial stability and put a massive strain on your relationships as well.
People who are already addicted to such behaviors in their traditional form have a higher chance of being susceptible to such compulsions as the internet and social media apps provide them with ease of access.
2. Compulsive Information Seeking
Social media provides us with a wealth of knowledge as to what is going around in the world, however, the accessibility of information has given birth to an uncontrollable urge to collect and organize information.
Although it might sound productive, compulsive information seeking often sends people down rabbit holes that are completely off-topic from the task at hand and may end up leading to reduced work productivity.
Believe it or not, some people are addicted to finding and maintaining digital relationships with people whom they have never met or had a chance of ever meeting in their lifetimes. Most commonly, online relationships are formed in chatrooms on social media networks.
The worst part about this addiction is that most people who tend to seek such relationships often keep their real-life identities a secret, giving birth to the term “Catfishing”, which means attracting individuals over the internet under false identities.
4. Gaming Addiction
Games were introduced to social media platforms as a means to let people unwind with their friends while playing a simple fun game. However, it wasn’t long before they gave birth to a new form of addiction which led people to spend countless hours and dollars on these games that served no real purpose.
People suffering from such an addiction, often end up spending hundreds of dollars on in-game digital products.
5. Cyber-Sexual Addiction
One of the most commonly found addictions amongst the youth of today, cyber-sexual addiction refers to the consumption of an unhealthy amount of pornographic content. An obsession with such content can affect your real-life relationships and might even induce anxiety and depression. This is considered to be one of the most destructive of all social media addictions.
How to Get Rid of Social Media Addiction
So, how do you take back the reins of your life and curb your time on social media (and stop social media addiction)? Here are some steps to get started.
1. Think About Why You’d Like to Be on Social Media
Everything we do in life is about intention: why do you want to do something? What will it bring you? The same goes for social media use. It may be silly to ask this question when thinking about a Facebook or Instagram account, but if you want to truly control your social media (instead of the other way around), asking this question may truly be eye-opening.
Do you want to just keep in touch with friends, or do you want to promote your business? Getting to the crux of why you’re online will help you clearly mark your time on social media effectively and eliminate everything else.
2. Be Meticulous About Who You Follow and what you post and share
Attention is your greatest currency.
Everything that you click on or “like” becomes a thread in the tapestry of what comes back to you on social media newsfeeds. You want to create the kind of information spread that works for you, your needs, and your time. So, often, we impulsively follow people who may not be serving our best interests.
Give yourself permission to clean those contacts out every once in a while! It’s okay to disagree with someone. Instead of plummeting into a rabbit hole of social media thread arguments, unfollow anyone who you don’t connect with. It’s much better for your mental health and helps you get rid of social media addiction.
Likewise, be meticulous about what you share. Are you posting misinformation yourself? Just like you are planning on cleaning up your contacts list, someone who follows you may be thinking of doing the same. Make it a priority to share and post things that not only have significance to you but also serve others.
3. Curb the Time You Spend Online
If you have a laundry list of things to get done but have spent the last three hours scrolling your newsfeed, it’s time to close the app or the computer. Set a timer on your phone, if that’s what it takes to solve your social media addiction.
Once you begin the practice of detaching from being online so much, you’ll notice that you get so much time back! This time has always existed, but you were just using it poorly. It’s not that you don’t have enough time—it’s just that you spend too much time scrolling online instead of being productive.
4. Change Your Notification Settings
If your productivity is suffering because you’re constantly distracted by the pings from your notifications, there are ways to turn those notifications off in your settings. Better yet, you can always delete the apps from your phone and devices and resolve to check your social media notifications on your desktop.
This way, you can get back to finishing your work without facing the temptation of checking your messages.
5. Not Everything Has to Be Posted and Shared
It often feels like we’re in a perpetual case of “FOMO” when it comes to posting on social media. If the Superbowl came and went and you didn’t post anything at all, will the world continue to spin? Yes.
We don’t have any social obligation to our followers to keep them abreast of every single event that happens in our life. These are choices that we must make consciously and in alignment with our desires.
Think about the last concert (in the pre-COVID world) you went to—did you immediately post bits of the concert to social media or snapped and uploaded a selfie of you and your friends?
These are habitual things that we don’t even think about, which brings me to the final point…
6. It’s Okay to Put Your Phone Down and Enjoy Life
In fact, this one very simple point could truly help you cut that social media addiction! Precious moments of your life are one in a million—like seeing a shooting star or catching the smile of your favorite person. These moments are so fragile, and they never happen the same way twice in your lifetime.
Don’t run towards your phone to capture that moment. Capture it instead with your eyes and with your heart. Let it become a sweet memory. Enjoy the moment you’re so keen on sharing with others and instead, prioritize sharing it with yourself.
Social media addiction, when left unchecked, can lead us to depression and a lack of self-worth and authenticity. If we “follow the flock” in search of creating a perfect online life, we’re stepping further away from being ourselves.
It is important to nip this problem in the bud before it festers and takes over your life. Regaining control of your life and your time is one of the best things you can do for yourself. In a constantly mainstream world of social media, give yourself the option to retain your individuality and power of choice.
You might think this is easier said than done. However, that is not the case. Your life is in your hands, and you have the power to influence your decisions. Keep the following tips in mind to control any threat of social media addiction before it takes over your life.
- Set a limit on daily social media usage and avoid crossing it.
- Keep weekends free from social media so that you have time to focus on yourself.
- Learn to unfollow pages and people that make you uncomfortable. If you’re a size 12, you don’t need to put yourself down over some size 0 posts.
- Keep certain activities in analog form like calling your friends, writing them letters, playing board games, etc.
- Practice mindfulness and be content with your presence instead of seeking validation online.
- Do not hesitate to seek medical advice, if need be.
More on Social Media Addiction
- 9 Reasons Why a Social Media Detox Is Good for You
- How to Quit Social Media for a Happier and More Focused Life
- 9 Steps to Disconnect from Social Media and Connect With Life Again
Featured photo credit: Ryan Plomp via unsplash.com