Behavioral addiction is characterized by being overly concerned about social media, having an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use it, and devoting too much time and effort to it that it affects other important life areas.
Whether you’re chatting with friends and family on social media, watching videos, or just browsing, we all do it. The usage of social media has increased dramatically over the last decade.
More than ever, it’s become an integral part of many people’s lives.
But that may not be a good thing according to experts who are beginning to uncover the negative effects that social media has on our mental health.
A recent study conducted by researchers at UCLA showed that students with higher levels of ‘Facebook depression’ were more likely to experience anxiety or suicidal thoughts.
While this study is new, the idea of social media is linked to depression isn’t surprising.
We all have our own reasons for loving or hating social media, but let’s explore what makes it so addictive and what you can do about it.
What Makes Social Media So Addictive?
It’s fun and easy to get caught up in the moment when you get a notification.
There’s nothing wrong with checking your account once in a while out of curiosity, but it turns into an addiction when you become preoccupied with it and feel the need to check almost constantly throughout the day.
It’s also hard to ignore that many people these days feel socially awkward in person, but seem to come alive online.
It can be easier for them to connect with others through social media because they’re able to control the way that they present themselves and be whoever or whatever they want to be.
They also get more ‘likes’ which is often tied to their self-esteem.
What’s Behind the Urge to Check Social Media?
Many people report feeling an overwhelming urge or anxiety when they can’t check their accounts. It’s similar to the feeling of withdrawal that some people get from cigarettes and alcohol, only it lasts a lot longer.
When they’re not on social media, there’s a void in their life that feels empty and unsatisfying.
Going online becomes a way to fill that void. It’s an easy way for people to feel better about themselves and escape from daily life, even if it’s just for a brief moment or two.
What they don’t realize is that this habit can quickly take over their lives and lead them into a downward spiral of unhappiness.
Social Media Addiction Statistics
As a society, we rely on social media more than ever before. Here are some statistics that highlight just how deeply it’s embedded into our lives:
- In 2015, the average person spent nearly two hours per day using their mobile device for social networking.
- In 2017, this number went up to 2 hours and 22 minutes per day. It’s expected to hit 2 hours and 50 minutes by 2020. In 2015, it was reported that more than 3 billion people worldwide used social media sites.
- In 2018, the number of monthly active Facebook users reached 2.32 billion. It’s estimated that over 1/2 of the world’s population uses at least one type of social media site.
Signs Of A Social Media Addiction
People with a social media addiction are more likely to show signs below!
- Often feel a strong urge to constantly check their account, even if they already know what’s on it.
- Experience more negative emotions when they’re not using it and may get caught up in many other aspects of life such as their job or schoolwork.
- Feel anxious when they’re not online, and it’s difficult for them to leave their account behind even if they have a compelling reason.
- Sometimes post provocative photos or status updates on purpose in order to get more responses. They can experience major mood swings based on how many likes they get.
- Lose track of time while obsessively checking social media.
- Interact with other people less often offline because they have a hard time separating the virtual world from reality, and may even forget that people are real in-person.
If you feel that social media has taken over your life, there are things you can do to limit or stop using it. Here are some helpful tips that have worked for many people:
- Start implementing a time limit. Set the amount of time per day that you’ll allow yourself to use social media and stick with it no matter what.
- If you use social media as a way to escape from real life, try replacing it with something more productive such as sports or an art class. This will give you the same benefits without the drawbacks of social media addiction.
- Make your avatar less useful if you’re obsessed with it. For example, change its privacy settings so that you can only see posts that you’ve made.
- Limit how often you’re willing to check your account. For example, set it up so that you have to wait five minutes after opening the app before using it again for the first time each day. Increase the amount of time as you get used to not checking all the time.
- Stay offline while you’re at parties, family events or other gatherings. You can let your friends know that you don’t want to check social media during this time so they won’t feel offended if you ignore them while looking at your account.
- Reward yourself when you don’t have access to the internet for a certain amount of time. For example, if you manage to hold off using it for a period of 30 minutes, treat yourself to a small piece of candy or buy something from your favorite online store.
- Don’t unfriend people even if you think they’re toxic. If you don’t have social media at all, you can miss opportunities to meet new people and learn things that will help grow your life in positive ways.
- Get rid of your account altogether. It will take some time to learn how not to rely on it during social gatherings, but you can still interact with people in person even when you don’t have an online presence.
Any way you slice it, social media is here to stay. It’s impossible to completely ignore it when it has such a major influence on most people these days.
The best thing you can do is to limit the amount of time you spend using it and make sure that your virtual life doesn’t interfere with your real life.
If you’re having trouble staying offline during certain events, set a time limit to keep yourself from going overboard.
It’s also good to have a strong support system so that you can talk to someone about your feelings if social media starts taking over too much of your life.
It may help you learn how to adjust or even improve the way you use it so that the drawbacks are lessened.
When you stop using social media to fill all of your free time, you can learn how to focus on more important things in life such as family and friends.
Your old high school buddies may even start calling you again instead of relying on Facebook Messenger or Instagram comments to communicate with each other.