Social media is most likely a part of your daily ritual. Over the last ten years, it has woven itself into the fabric of society in a way that eludes comparison to other trends or movements. While it can provide some basic benefits such as connectedness with old friends and keeping in touch with distance family, there are also many psychological problems operating below the surface of consciousness while you scroll. Knowing the risks associated with social media can help you use it responsibly, happily, and not too much. If you find yourself falling into the patterns described below, you may find it comforting that effective and reliable treatment is available, and know it may be time to seek help conquering your social media addiction should you feel you have a problem.
Can You Become Addicted to Social Media?
The Mechanics of Addiction
Any addictive element includes a few universal features:
- Mood improvement. Use of the addictive element or the substance temporarily improves the user’s mood.
- Tolerance. Over time, more of the addictive element or the substance is needed to achieve the desired effect.
- Withdrawal. The user experiences unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms when access to the addictive element or the substance is restricted.
- Salience. The addictive element or the substance occupies a large portion of the user’s mental space, at the expense of other parts of life.
- Conflict. Interpersonal relationships experience strain and conflict over issues relating to the substance.
Social media use is no different—all of the above symptoms are observed in the 5 – 10% of Americans who experience social media addiction. And, when you look more closely at sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, it’s no wonder they have generated an epidemic of addiction.
The steady stream of likes, comments, and retweets provide small doses of dopamine at intervals that draw us back for more, much like slot machines. Self-disclosure on social media sites activates the same brain regions as those affected by addictive recreational drugs. With relatively little effort, it is possible to get the reward of attention and validation from social media in the comfort of one’s home.
What are The Consequences of Social Media?
If the story ended there, it wouldn’t seem particularly tragic—attention and validation are wonderful things to which the world now has easy access to social media! But, many negative mental health effects have been observed from social media use that makes overuse a slippery slope.
Research shows a clear link between excessive social media use and social anxiety, low self-esteem, and body image disorders. The comparison of lifestyles and material possessions intrinsic to these sites naturally leads to feelings of jealousy and depression. Comparing your personal life with the filtered and edited lives of others is a recipe for low self-esteem. The constant exposure to unrealistic beauty standards through social media has been linked to eating disorders, with young women sadly and unsurprisingly in the highest-risk group. The mental health patterns of individuals who visited a social media site at least 58 times per week versus 9 times per week, the higher-use group was three times as likely to feel depressed and socially isolated.
The good news is, all addiction disorders respond well to cognitive behavioral treatment. By identifying negative thought patterns and creating a plan for reframing your relationship to social media, a happier future is in sight. Time limits within each app (especially passive use such as scrolling to pass the time) and finding other activities that provide a similar sense of reward can offer a handrail for getting your addiction to social media under control.
We’re Here for You
At Blair Wellness Group, we are committed to providing quality mental health treatment for the Beverly Hills, Century City, and the entire Los Angeles community. By providing a safe space to discuss your experiences, concerns, and fears, we aspire to shed light on your deepest needs. Nothing is shameful or off limits in our offices. If you feel like it’s time to take the next steps in your journey to wellness and seek psychological services, we want you to know we are here to help. Our expert guidance and support can give you the tools you need to live a healthy, happy, and productive life.
If you feel ready to make important changes in your life and seek psychological services, we are here to support and guide you through every step. We provide concierge-care to our patients, which means we see patients in the evenings and on weekends, and we even do house-calls as necessary.
Remember—the practice of self-care and emotional discovery requires patience, open-mindedness, and dedication. You do not have to go through this process alone. Taking the first step is always the hardest, but once you develop the courage to do so, you are on the path towards healing. There’s no time like now to get started. A rewarding, fulfilling, and beautiful life is achievable for everyone.