What if you had a terrible addiction
and didn't even know it?
Addiction isn't limited to things like
alcohol and cigarettes. Consuming too much social media can be a
form of addiction as well.
How can you tell if you have a
problem? Here are a few things to look out for.
How Much Is Too Much
Let's start with the bad news. When it
comes to knowing whether you spend too much time on social media,
there is no magic number we can point to.
For example, most users spend at least
two hours a day on social media. Some of these people may exhibit
behaviors indicating addiction and others may not.
Social media addiction has a lot in
common with video game addiction. That means the primary signs of
addiction are less about how often you engage with social media than
how and why you use it each day.
The Difficulty of
What makes it so difficult to diagnose
social media addiction? As of this writing, such addiction has not
been formally defined by either the World Health Organization or the
American Psychiatric Association.
These institutions are often slow and
reluctant to acknowledge new addictions and disorders. In fact, it
wasn't until 2018 that WHO formally acknowledged video game
addiction as a major issue.
Because social media addiction is not
listed in the DSM-5 or otherwise acknowledged by these institutions,
it can be difficult to diagnose. And you can only make a successful
diagnosis when you understand how social media affects your brain.
Social Media And Your
Some people are skeptical about the
very idea of social media. How can using Instagram or Facebook lead
A recent Harvard study uncovered a
possible answer for this. Using social media helps release dopamine,
making your brain feel like this is rewarding behavior. The same
thing happens when you use an addictive substance.
Eventually, you may become dependent
on those bursts of dopamine and try to get them more often. And that
means social media usage may start distracting you and otherwise
affecting other parts of your life.
Obviously, easy social media access is
a big part of this. Thanks to smartphones, you can access the social
media dopamine rush anytime that you want.
How can you distinguish between
healthy social media usage and addictive behavior? By understanding
the possible warning signs. Here are a few behaviors you need to
watch out for.
Checking social media first thing in
the morning can be a dangerous sign. It shows that social media is a
high priority and you may not be able to start the day without that
Constantly refreshing your feed or
timeline is another sign. This shows a constant need for new content
that may not be healthy.
Arguably, the biggest sign is whether
you obsess over your online reputation. Signs of this include
worrying whether a post will get enough "likes" and obsessing over
finding the perfect images of yourself to post.
If you are engaging in some of these
behaviors, you may be using social media as a coping mechanism.
The Dangers Of A
Addictive substances and behavior are
always more dangerous when used as a coping mechanism. For example,
there is a world of difference between drinking with friends because
you are happy and drinking alone because you are depressed.
Using social media when you are
lonely, depressed, or stressed out is actually quite dangerous. It
means you are seeking out that dopamine rush to make yourself feel
better. And the more you rely on social media, the likelier you are
to get addicted.
Eventually, that addiction may start
affecting your life. If you'd rather browse Twitter or Instagram all
night than hang out with your closest friends, then you may have a
Tracking Your Usage
How do you know how much you are using
social media? Because there are multiple social media apps, it can
be difficult to track your exact usage.
The solution? Another app, of course!
Apps such as In Moment help you track how much you use each social
That same app can help you set limits
on your usage and keep you from accessing social media if you go
over that limit. Eventually, though, you may want to delete apps
like Instagram entirely.
Social Media and
While it's difficult to diagnose
social media addiction, it's not hard to see the negative effects
that social media can have. In fact, recent research shows that
social media can seriously hurt your self-esteem.
The biggest reason for this is that
you are likely to compare yourself to those on your social media
feed. When you see someone celebrating a new home or a new
promotion, you may end up stressing over the fact that you aren't
"keeping up" in your own life.
Social media also stokes the classic
Fear Of Missing Out. Why do you constantly check social media? Due
to FOMO, you don't want to miss out on any major online
But what you see online (for example,
pictures from a reunion you couldn't attend) can enhance that FOMO.
This creates a closed circuit where you can't stop using social
media even as it makes you feel worse about your life.
Dangerous From A
One final thing to keep in mind is
that children are at significant risk of experiencing social media
Children (particularly teenagers)
already struggle with things like poor self-image and self-esteem.
Social media can magnify these issues when a teen compares
themselves to someone's latest Instagram photo.
And children also have plenty of
stressors ranging from school to parents to the struggles of
puberty. They are likely to seek social media as a coping mechanism
and end up feeling worse than they did before.
Too Much Social
Media: What Comes Next?
Now you know how to tell if you're
using too much social media. But do you know who can help break that
We specialize in helping you achieve
personal and professional success. To break the social media cycle,
spend some time browsing through more of our blog posts instead!