Social media can be very enticing. It can suck us in and then it can be hours before we even realize what time it is. Some apps are specifically designed to keep us checking around the clock. With others, it is the constant stream of content that keeps us coming back and clicking day and night. At some point, though, we need to stop and ask “How do I know if I’m addicted to social media?”
What is Social Media Addiction?
The diagnosis of social media addiction is a relatively new term. There have been very few studies done so far to determine if the overuse of social media actually qualifies as an addiction. One study published this year did find evidence not only of social media addiction, but also how it negatively impacted mental health, academic performance, and self-esteem amongst those studied. Rather than wait for the studies to catch up with reality, it is safe to say that social media addiction is real, and it is harmful, particularly to those who are already suffering from mental health issues.
Addiction is when we continue to act compulsively, even when there are harmful consequences. There are genetic factors involved, meaning we may inherit a risk of addiction passed down from our parents or grandparents. Environmental factors increase our chances of developing an addiction, so if there is abuse, trauma, loss, bullying, etc., then those things put us at higher risk. In the end, it is what happens in our brains that matter most. As we engage in behaviors increasingly, our brains actually change and create the demand for more of, in this case, social media.
Social Media Use vs. Abuse
We can access the world via social media. Funny panda videos? Sure. Everything we ever needed to know about BTS? Absolutely. Literally, we could find anything on social media, and it changes every second. We can see what our friends are doing right now, we can keep track of family, we can electronically stalk our favorite celebrities, get spoilers on upcoming shows and movies, the list is endless. If we really wanted to, we could spend every waking hour on social media and never get bored.
But that’s not healthy.
Healthy use of devices, in general, is developing a balance between real-life activities and screen time. We need to prioritize our sleep, healthy eating and exercise, and school and work first. With the time that is left in each day, we can balance screen time with time spent face to face with family and friends and other healthy activities.
There is obviously time throughout the day to peek at Instagram or watch a YouTube video. But we can use our devices themselves to show us how much screen time we are using every day and which apps we are spending that time on. Take a look. It may be surprising how much time we spend in all, or which apps we are spending the most time with. If we are spending an hour or more on any one app, it might be too much. More than a couple of hours a day total may be too much as well.
Apps such as Instagram and TikTok are designed to keep us checking around the clock, with content such as stories that disappear if we don’t check them within a certain period of time. Be especially careful about how much time we spend on apps like this. If we check them even for five to ten minutes ten times a day, that is about an hour or more already. And checking so frequently puts us at higher risk for addiction.
There are things to consider if we are worried about becoming addicted. How much are we thinking about social media when we are not on it? How many times a day do we check it? Is our social life in real life suffering because we are on our devices? What about school and work and family? Are they suffering because we are constantly on social media?
Do we know off the top of our heads how many followers we have? How many likes do we average? It is one thing to be a content creator and monitor our account, but do we use abusive language or troll other people? Do we use our real name and photo, or do we hide behind another identity? Do we have a “finsta?” Or two or three? Do we wake up at night and check social media? Do we know social media account names better than our own friends and family in real life?
The big question is, though: could we go off social media cold turkey? Would our brains still be compelling us to find a device and sign in and check if we had no more access? Like if we were challenged to go without social media for a week or even a day, could we? Do we have control?
At the end of the day, you know how reliant you are on social media. However, you may not realize if you are addicted. Or even if you know you have a problem, how can you find help? Embark Behavioral Health can help you find mental health and give you the tools you need to live healthily. Contact us today to help you find balance in your life.
Make the choice to treat your mental health today. Call Embark Behavioral Health at 1-855-809-0409 today. Our outpatient programs can help you be healthy in real life and on social media.