A staggering 56 percent of Facebook users log onto this popular social networking site at least once a day. 16 percent check the news and their friend’s status updates, with their morning coffee. The 2000s were marked by several events, including the inception of omnipresent social media sites, from the more popular Twitter and Facebook to the fledgling MySpace and the career-orientated LinkedIn. For many these sites are a casual, fun way to check up on their friends and favorite celebrities. For others, the line has been crossed and their occasional meanderings into the social media world have become a full-blown addiction.
A recent Chicago University study found that having someone “like” your Facebook posting or respond to a pithy Tweet is akin to the reaction of a nicotine addict puffing on a cigarette or alcoholic taking a drink. This is because the release of dopamine, or the chemical in your brain that elicits a feeling of euphoria, occurs when a habitual user partakes of their drug of choice, be it alcohol, nicotine or… Facebook.
Signs of Social Media Addiction
As with alcoholism and drug abuse, social media addiction has several telltale warning signs. If you notice any of these signs in yourself or your loved ones, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
- You compulsively update your status, check your friend’s tweets or log on one or several social media sites, before you even have your morning coffee or shower.
- You interact more with your close friends and family members on social media websites than in person or over the phone. This is especially problematic if you’re learning about your kid’s day over Twitter instead of around the kitchen table.
- You become anxious and stressed if you’re away from a computer or smartphone, and your social media accounts, for an extended period of time.
- Family vacations are a nightmare if you can’t check or post on your social media sites as much as usual.
- Your social media habits have dramatically disrupted your life and sleeping habits.
- You become offended or upset if everyone isn’t constantly commenting on your status or posting on your feed or wall.
- You base feelings of self-worth on how many friends or followers you have. You might even constantly compare your numbers to friends and family members.
Seeking Help for Yourself
Once you’ve realized your issues with social media addiction, it’s time to seek professional help. Simply turning of the computer, putting down your smartphone or shutting down your social media accounts isn’t enough. One-on-one therapy is crucial, especially if you cannot find a support group in your area. Social media addiction is a recent phenomenon, and you might find it difficult to locate a trained therapist or support group in your area that is geared toward this issue. Once a trained therapist is found, he will help you realize the underlying issue that led to your social media compulsion.
Aside from seeking help, it’s crucial to change your lifestyle and interactions as well. Focus on a new or established hobby, especially if it’s one you gave up to concentrate on social media sites. Encourage your friends and family members to participate in these activities. Overcoming any form of addiction is much more realistic when you have a stable support system. This is especially true with social media addiction, as it deals partly with how you interact with others.
Fighting Social Media Addiction in Your Home
Facebook “suggests” accounts holders be at least 13 years old, although this recommendation is rarely followed. Many teenagers struggle with social media addiction and they’re finding more ways to access these sites than ever before. There are several ways to combat social media addiction in your own home:
- Take the computer out of your teenager’s bedroom. This might cause a fight, but it’s crucial to monitor your child’s internet use.
- Set up the computer in a common area and limit your child’s access. Give your child or teenager a set amount of time, from 30 minutes to one hour, of non-scholastic internet use every day.
- Shut down your child’s social media accounts. If your child’s school work or relationships are suffering, the most effective way to counteract the issue is to remove the temptation all together.
If you find yourself logging onto your favorite social media website several times a day, even during work, just ask yourself a simple question: “what am I missing out on if social media sites didn’t exist?”
The answer to that question is probably not much and that is enough motivation for you to shut off the computer and spend time with your friends and family in the real world.
Jillian Thompson is a full time mother and consultant for DrugRehab.org. She is passionate about helping people successfully complete their non 12 step drug rehab programs and going on to lead fulfilling, sober lives.