Over that last decade, there has been a significant cultural change that is now global. It is the norm now to spend time each day checking your social media feeds.
Social media’s real impact on the wellbeing of the masses is a source of concern worldwide. More and more research is being performed to identify how habitual social media use can lead to behavioral addiction and impact adolescents’ social behavior, interpersonal relationship development, and academic performance.
Social media addiction is a behavioral addiction that is defined by being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use social media, and devoting so much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas.
There are a large number of causes that contribute to a teen or young adult becoming addicted to social media. The most widely-recognized contributors to this type of addiction include low self-esteem, personal dissatisfaction, depression and hyperactivity, and even lack of affection, a deficiency that adolescents (and even adults) frequently try to replace with Likes, Shares, Followers, Comments, etc. This implies that at its root, social media addiction stems from a need to receive gratification by the user.
Contributors such as low self esteem, personal dissatisfaction, hyperactivity and lack of affection also show up as contributing factors with teen suicide. If you think your child or teen is showing signs of addictive social media usage, you’re going to want to start a pathway of discovery, attention and careful treatment of the underlying issues.
Identifying Social Media Addiction or Compulsive Social Media Behavior
Some general signs of a social media addiction include having your mood change due to engagement with social media – i.e. you feel happier when you’re on social media, or you feel angry after interacting with others on social media. This is a sign of you having a behavioral, cognitive, and emotional preoccupation with social media, especially if you find that you keep increasing your use of social media.
You should first take a look at yourself with the following questions, and then put yourself in the shoes of your child to see how you would answer if you were them.
- Do you spend a lot of time thinking about social media or planning to use social media?
- Do you feel urges to use social media more and more?
- Do you use social media to forget about personal problems?
- Do you often try to reduce the use of social media without success?
- Do you become restless or troubled if unable to use social media?
- Do you use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on your job or studies?
Dopamine – The Brain’s Reward System
The most popular social media platforms have been engineered, optimized and evolved to drive user involvement by stimulating their need for gratification. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter trigger the brain’s reward system to release dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical.
Some social media users see an increase in dopamine in their brains when they engage with a social media platform. The brain gets a shot of feel-good or a reward when the user receives a positive achievement from the social media; the problem lies in that the brain sees a need to satisfy the same need “next time” due to the nature of dopamine.
This simple cycle of motivation, reward and reinforcement is called a dopamine loop, and it is the same process your brain goes through with eating tasty foods, gambling, having sex, using our smart phones, or engaging in other addictive behaviors. The same dopamine loop and unhealthy stimulation of dopamine is built into a large number of addictive substances.
Social Media Addiction – An Evolving Concept
The concept of social media addiction is still evolving, and there is ongoing debate and discussion among experts regarding its classification and diagnostic criteria. Continued research is necessary to further understand the potential impact of excessive social media use on mental health and well-being in children, adolescents and adults.