In a world where social media is everywhere, social media addiction is prevalent. While people joke about being addicted to social media, some people possess an unhealthy relationship with various social media platforms. Everywhere we turn, we are all encouraged to like, subscribe, share, and follow. This need for constant engagement has many people continually staring at smartphones, tablets, and computers seeking the next like or update. It is easy to get pulled into the world of social media craze. When social media begins to impact the ability to live a healthy life, help is needed. It is essential to determine if someone has an unhealthy relationship with social media to begin the process of seeking treatment.
What is Social Media Addiction?
Social media addiction is unhealthy preoccupation and engagement with and on social media platforms. This type of addiction is sometimes hard to identify because society promotes connectivity through social media platforms. From connecting to family members and even making purchases, most people, companies, and businesses have some form of social media presence. In fact, not having a social media presence is considered “odd” to many. The issue is when the need to connect via social media begins to impact mental and emotional well-being. Those individuals that have extreme reactions to social media interactions are likely to possess an addiction to social media. These reactions can include mood variances when they are not able to connect to social media, listlessness, anger, and feelings of apathy as if social media is more important than the current lived experience.
Why is Social Media Addiction an Issue?
Social media addiction is an issue for several reasons. First, it creates a false perception of addicted individuals. Those that are social media addicted often find refuge in living their lives through the feeds of their social media platforms. In severe cases, people begin to live their lives vicariously through other people on social media instead of living their own lives in this physical reality. It is almost as if some people use social media as a means to “check-out” of their life experience.
Second, an addiction to social media tends to exacerbate low self-image and low self-esteem in mentally and emotionally vulnerable individuals. The various social media platforms are teeming with images of carefully curated “perfection” that does not genuinely exist. Those that are struggling with their self-perception compare themselves to what they see on social media, which can fuel insecurities. The obsession with social media can drive vulnerable individuals to take uncharacteristic actions to meet the perceived demands to appear or be a particular way. In many ways, it is a virtual form of “keeping up with the Joneses.”
Third, social media addiction also increases the chances of cyberbullying and stalking. The rise in cyberbullying is a direct reflection of the profound impact of the Internet and the pervasive influence of social media. Social media promotes engagement, but this engagement is not always beneficial or kind. There are visible and masked “trolls” who delight in using social media platforms to prey on the mentally and emotionally vulnerable. Those addicted to social media can be both victims as well as perpetrators of cyberbullying and stalking.
These are among the reasons why social media addiction is an issue that requires intervention.
How to Tell if Someone is Addicted to Social Media
While social media addiction is prevalent, it often goes untreated because this type of addiction is not perceived as an issue until it begins to interfere with the routine of everyday living. Here are some signs that a person is addicted to social media:
- Escapism-Social media is used as an escape mechanism to avoid facing personal issues or to get away from engaging in life experiences.
- Obsession-Individuals are obsessed with the various social media platforms and have an overwhelming need to be “in the know” at all times. There could be an unhealthy sense of “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out). Sometimes individuals will get upset if they miss an update on their social media feeds.
- Neglect-There are signs of personal neglect. Individuals may forgo attending to own self-care (eating and bathing), maintaining their homes (lack of cleaning), or failure to take care of children and animals due to a need to prioritize social media interactions.
- A desire for Social Media Fame-With many people earning lots of money from various social media platforms; there is an uptick in people desiring to be “social media famous.” People filter their lives concerned about how it will appear on social media, and if it will make them “viral,” “famous,” or “rich.” This desire can and has led to people adopting “social media personas” to attract attention from others.
If you or someone you know possesses any of these traits, you may be dealing with a social media addiction.
Treating Social Media Addiction
The willingness to admit that there is a problem is vital in managing social media addiction. Those with addictions to social media often make engagement on these platforms an unhealthy priority. Even some of the most popular smartphone creators have introduced new phone settings that limit “screen time” to decrease the social media dependency that is plaguing many people.
Here are some tips for treating social media addiction.
- Limit Exposure-Utilize phone settings and apps to limit “screen time” on smartphones, tablets, and computers. If necessary, give the applicable passwords to disable these features to a trusted accountability partner who can assist with limiting social media exposure.
- Goodbye Notifications-Turn off notifications on electronic devices. This helps to reduce the desire to “check-in” on social media.
- Digital Detox-Taking a break from social media for a specified amount of time helps to curb the desire to connect constantly. Some social media platforms allow individuals to disable their accounts periodically. Depending on the severity of social media addiction, a full shut down of all social media platforms may be necessary to address the addiction head-on.
- Live Life Out Loud-Once social media is limited; there is lots of time for experiencing life. Take up a hobby. Take a trip. Exercise. Experience life beyond a screen.
When to Seek Professional Assistance
It is vital to seek professional guidance when social media addiction disrupts life. When engaging with social media is negatively impacting mental and emotional health via distorted perceptions that cause the development of mental, emotional, and physical disorders, therapy is a viable solution.
Professional assistance for social media addiction may involve an assessment to determine how individuals view social media in their lives. This assessment provides a baseline for beginning treatment to address the addiction. Ultimately, the goal is to help people establish an equilibrium that allows individuals to engage with social media healthily.