Monday Mind Talks: Are you addicted to social media? Read on to find out
Samar Hafeez, a Psychologist and Certified Holistic Health Coach, shares her expert advice on how to avoid becoming addicted to social media.
A lot has changed since technology engulfed the world. Before this, not everyone had access or means to afford sophisticated gadgets and internet connections, but now, everyone, including young children, seem to be fascinated with them. Social media platforms are crucial part of today’s cyber world. More and more social networks are popping up every day for us to log in, create a profile and connect with others. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and many others seem to have consumed the world as we know it.
Samar Hafeez a Psychologist and a Certified holistic health coach says that addictive social media usage will look like any other addiction. For example- addiction to drugs, alcohol, nicotine or gambling, all these are always accompanied by mood changes.
Social media boosts dopamine production
Dopamine a type of “feel good” chemical that is released during pleasurable activities and reinforce us to seek pleasurable activity in future. Social media environments boost dopamine production and initiate an inner reward system. With every like, tweet, follower/admirer, good comment, emoticon, the brain receives a release of dopamine that activates reward pathways in the brain. A rewarded behaviour always sustains longer. The positive reinforcement is desired over and over again and make people desire more likes, favourable tweets, emoticons overtime.
For some people social media could be a form of coping mechanism. People lacking in emotional and psychological support often turn to social media to fill in their needs. In addition, stress, loneliness, depression, anxiety contribute to over dependence on social media. Also, overly shy and timid people who cannot easily relate to their peers are also among those who are at higher risk. Furthermore, peer pressure and expectations also put someone at risk for addiction.
Excessive and obsessive use of social media has been linked to depression, fear of missing out
(FOMO), poor sleep quality, anxiety, feeling of isolation and inadequacy and in extreme cases suicidal thoughts too. In recent studies, young adult users who spent most of their time on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms were shown to have a higher rate of reported depression than those who spent less time. Also, people who are already experiencing depression have seen their symptoms worsen overtime with usage of social media platforms thereby, reinforcing the vicious cycle to continue.
As the use of internet and social media is becoming increasingly common in today’s world, the question of how much is too much naturally arises. It should be understood that when there is an extensive, compulsive use of these platforms to the point that it interferes with your daily functioning at school, work and personal fronts, and causes significant stress in your daily life then, you may be using it too much. It is always better to recognise a problem early, so that its intervention is a complete success.
Here’s what you can do:
Initially, it may seem like a fun and harmless way to connect with friends, colleagues and families. Over time, its negative effects on human psychology have escalated. The cyber space has made life a lot easier by making information more accessible and by creating a connection with people around the globe. However, this convenience does present the risk of addiction, so here’s what you can do-
1. Check if you are excessively preoccupied with social media (Persistently thinking about its past and future usage)
2. Ask yourself each time whether you need to be online longer to be satisfied
3. Check whether you feel happier when using social media and on the contrary, also check if you feel moody, sad, irritable or restless when you stop or decrease social media usage
4. Ensure that you are not concealing the extent of social media usage from your family and friends
5. Ask yourself whether social media serves as an escape from real life problems
6. Review (if any) failed attempts to regulate or restrict social media use
7. Do you feel guilt, have low self- esteem, anxiety, memory problems, poor attention and concentration span, stress, mental exhaustion and confusion associated with social media
8. Do you have frequent severe headaches, neckaches, blurred or strained vision, sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep)
9. Check if preoccupation with social media is a hurdle in your work, school performance and personal relationships in any way. Check in if other people around you are commenting on your social media use
Any addiction is no laughing matter. It affects not only the addict but also everyone around them. If you think you cannot manage it alone and need external help, please contact a certified addictions counsellor.