Sitting on the couch on a lazy weekend evening. Can’t find anything good to watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime, suddenly you reach for your mobile phone. Instagram. Facebook. YouTube. Snapchat. TikTok. Before long you realize that hours have passed with you just scrolling through posts, videos and publicly shared content. Whew, social media really is addictive, isn’t it? 

What is social media addiction?

It is a behavioural addiction characterized by being unduly concerned with your social media, being driven to check on or update your social media regularly and devoting too much time and energy to social media that it impairs other critical aspects of your life. Being addicted to social media is no joke. An addicted social media user will behave similarly to a substance abuser. 

So why do you get addicted to social media?

Well, there are a few reasons, read on below to find out more:

Social media hits the brain – head on

Social media becomes both psychologically as well as physically addictive due to the effect it has on your brain. The results of a Harvard University study reveals that when people share personal information on social media the same part of the brain lights up as when taking an addictive substance. 

When using social media, a person’s brain experiences a surge in dopamine levels causing them to feel pleasure. The likes and mentions on Facebook and other platforms allow individuals to feel a sense of immediate rewards in the form of attention. The dopamine surge is so strong studies have shown that cigarettes and alcohol are easier to resist than the urge to post a tweet. 

Social media is a coping mechanism for many

Social media becomes hugely problematic when you start viewing it as a mechanism to cope with depression, stress and loneliness. You experience the feeling of being constantly rewarded through likes and interactions, something that you may not get from your “real” life, that you engage in social media use more regularly.

Social media creates a vicious cycle of addiction

Excessive social media use creates undesirable mood swings and behavioural changes stemming from interpersonal problems fuelled in the first place by social media. These interpersonal problems include strained relationships, unstable work or school life and poor physical health. 

To get rid of this “bad mood” guess what people turn to. Social media! When people turn to social media regularly to “feel better” it creates an increased psychological dependency on such apps and sites. 

How do you beat social media addiction?

We list some key points on how to beat social media addiction below:

1. Limit your screen time

If you’re finding an unhealthy urge to check your social media apps on a regular basis, you can try limiting your screen time. Fix times in the day, like once every two hours, for social media use. You can also control the time spent on your social media use by setting usage time limits and monitoring your usage statistics on apps such as Instagram and Facebook. 

2. Unfollow all “guilty pleasures”

Most of the time spent browsing on social media is time spent on your “guilty pleasures” These may include following the latest celebrity style and fashion trends, news surrounding your favourite sports team or even content related to your interests and hobbies. Unfollowing a number of content creators/ channels that you spend hours on each week will help you significantly reduce your screen time. 

3. Choose a productive activity instead

There are many better things you can do besides being glued to your social media apps. Engaging in an outdoor sport, reading or listening to a podcast are some great alternatives to social media use. 

4. Take a break

If you find that you’re struggling to limit your screen time, it might be wise to take a complete break. You may want to limit your mobile phone use to just texts and calls and uninstall all social media apps. Facebook, Instagram and other social media apps give you an option to disable your account as well.

In summation, social media if used well offers huge benefits to both individuals and businesses alike. But as they say, it is probably not good to be addicted to anything. Life’s pleasures and social media use is best enjoyed in moderation.