Social networking tools such as Facebook, Instagram & Snapchat have become an accepted and integral part of our daily lives. It’s often difficult to distinguish between when it’s a healthy and enjoyable activity and when it’s become a problem or an addiction.
So what is an addiction?
Well, we can make the distinction between a substance addiction such as drugs and alcohol and a behavioural addiction such as shopping, computer gaming, gambling, pornography, Facebook or even quite ordinary activities such as eating and exercise.
So what all of these activities have in common is that they’re out of control and they’re being participated in repetitively usually in order to avoid some aspect of life.
So it may serve as a way of avoiding difficult or painful feelings or as a way of avoiding or distracting from a challenging issue in life.
The individual takes some comfort in repeating the behaviour over and over again. Individuals with addictions are often denial so they may say they can stop if they need to or they don’t have a problem.
Often for those individuals who are aware, there’s an issue they may have tried to give up the behaviour with some temporary success but then found themselves back in that vicious cycle.
Another way that we can identify if a behaviour such as Facebook has become problematic is when it’s being done to the exclusion of other activities.
So when it’s having a negative impact on their daily. For example on their work or the studies or on the relationships. They might be spending less time with friends and family.
Why are we addicted to social media?
Social information is intrinsically rewarding to people. We get a rush of dopamine which is a feel-good chemical in the brain.
When someone likes our status or shares one of our posts for example. So this is why we log into Facebook or Instagram and refresh our page over and over again.
We want to see what new statuses people posted because we’re literally addicted to the new information that’s being fed to us and also the validation that comes when someone likes or comments on one of our posts or photos.
The effects of this a short-lived because what happens in the brain is that the more dopamine that’s released the more the receptors become saturated. Over time they lose their sensitivity so then we need to release more dopamine in order to achieve the same effects.
So it’s like with any addiction. We need to find bigger and better hits in order to achieve the same effects. So with Facebook or Instagram, this would mean we’d be spending more time on it.
We would be searching for more information more gossip and more appreciation and validation. Another significantly attractive thing about Facebook and Instagram is that it promises connections with other people.
We can become famous on these social media networks and become celebrities. So it fulfils one of our basic social needs which is to belong, become famous and we are social creatures and we need relationships in order to flourish.
Unfortunately, social media doesn’t always fulfil the promise of helping us feel like we belong and that we’ve connected.
Even though we’re interacting with other people online because the experience often lacks real social connection and empathy we can often be left feeling isolated or disconnected particularly when our other real relationships are suffering.
How to get rid of social media addiction?
For the majority of people, social media use is not a problem and the Internet has become such a helpful and integral part of our daily lives that it’s impossible to avoid.
So it’s about balance and moderation and making the best use of this fantastic technology whilst minimising the negative effects on our lives.
If you do feel that your use of social media is becoming an issue then here are some of five top tips.
1. Set yourself a time limit
So perhaps you agree with yourself to just log in once a day for about half an hour maximum and make weekends social media free.
2. Question what you’re doing on Facebook
Are you enjoying it and more importantly is this enjoyment balanced with a range of other enjoyable pursuits in your life or are you just a passive user who’s scanning of the people’s posts and comparing yourselves with them and feeling that your life lacks fulfilment?
3. Question how social media improves your personal and your professional life
If it makes it easier to make a list of all those points to clarify it and remove some of the negativity and the trivia.
4. Switch from using social media as a substitute for friendships offline
Use it as a way to energize and synergize the real-life friendships that you already do have.
5. Take a break from social media
If you can just take a break from Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Put away your smartphone and your iPad and go out for a meal without worrying that you have to take a photo of it.
Take a walk without feeling that you need to update your status and tell people where you are caught up with friends and family. Take up that hobby or do some exercise and most importantly savour the surroundings.
Know the sights and the sounds around you and connect with your friends and family and be in the present moment.