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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

How to tell if you're addicted to social media

It’s one thing to enjoy a casual scroll through our newsfeed, while we’re relaxing on the sofa or taking a break from work.  But we would consider it to be a social media addiction when it moves from being a desire towards becoming a need.  A need for a ‘fix’ of news or updates or gossip about what our socials have to tell us.  A compulsive craving to keep on tapping, even when it’s getting in the way of us living a productive and fulfilled life.  I spoke to Psychreg all about the concept of social media addiction. Click here to read the full article, or read on to learn what I had to say.

Addictions are the things that we do when we have an ‘unmet need’.  So social media, or another activity or substance, becomes addictive when it’s fulfilling some kind of void in our lives.  Maybe we’re lonely, sad, anxious, angry, frustrated, or disappointed.  And instead of accessing that feeling and exploring it, it’s easier to reach for our devices to offer ourselves a hit of pleasure and ignore what’s going on inside.  

How common is social media addiction, and is it becoming more prevalent with changing technology and user habits? The challenge with social media addiction is that spending time on our devices has become a social norm.  So whereas it might be hard to smoke a cigarette or drink a pint while we are sitting in the office, it’s easy to slip subconsciously into a mindless scroll without anyone around us noticing.  Even more so as our work lives have joined our social lives on the world of social media.  When we need social media in order to be productive in the workplace it becomes even more difficult for us to have healthy boundaries around our social media use.  

What are the potential negative consequences of excessive social media use on mental health, relationships, and productivity? Social media is an incredibly powerful distraction.  A distraction from our projects at work, from what’s going around us in the present moment, and from the needs of our friends and loved ones.  So if our head is buried in our newsfeed, we are likely to be missing out in what’s going on around us.  This can leave us feeling disconnected, depressed, anxious or overwhelmed.  Social media also feeds latent perfectionism.  If we have a harsh inner critic, then the words and images that we view online can often had fuel to this fire.  This can damage our self-esteem leaving us feeling less confident and resilient.  

How to tell if you're addicted to social media

  • Hiding your use, pretending that you are doing something useful or productive while actually just disappearing onto your newsfeed. 

  • Turning down opportunities to do things that you would normally enjoy, in favour of spending time on social media. 

  • Experiencing cravings to check your online world if it’s taken away for some reason. 

  • Feeling a stronger relationship with online connections than with your real-life counterparts . 

  • Feeling compelled to wake up and spend time on social media when your body is sending signals that it needs to sleep and restore itself

Social media is a relatively new phenomenon, so the real answer is that we simply don’t know what the future holds.  But we can assume that prolonged social media addiction could lead to greater levels of depression, anxiety and stress.  

Mindfulness, in many ways, is an antidote to social media.  It encourages us to truly connect with ourselves and what’s going on around us.  It also helps us to feel present in our bodies, while social media can leave us feeling disconnected.  Digital detox is a powerful way to ’step away’ from our devices and remind ourselves what we are missing out on when we are glued to our screens.  

If you're planning to try to reduce your social media time, make sure you’re really clear with yourself on the benefits that it will bring.  So instead of seeing it as a punishment, remind yourself what you stand to gain.  All that extra time, all those extra opportunities to connect.  And notice how you feel when you spend less time online, perhaps calmer, less stressed, more content.  Bottle up this feeling and use it as continued motivation.  

If we plan to disconnect from social media, it’s important to accept that we might sometimes miss out.  Maybe we’ll miss out on the holiday photos, or the latest celeb gossip, or the requests on the local neighbourhood Facebook group.  So it’s worth seeing if there are other ways that you can find out what you need to know.  And making sure that your friends are aware that if they want to contact you, they can’t just assume that you’ll see what they’re posting online.  But remember that there is a positive side to this.  You’re liberating yourself from being at the beck and call of someone else’s newsfeed.  

Keen to explore more? In counselling we can take a deeper look at how you feel about yourself. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a 30-minute introductory call.

How to tell if you're addicted to social media

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