Undoubtedly, social media has taken over the entire world. There is not a single person on this planet with a smartphone and an internet connection who doesn’t use these platforms, it is an inescapable drug that glues us to our phone screens and we spend countless hours without having any idea of our surroundings. In the earlier stages of social media, it wasn’t so bad, there were a handful of people who were dependant on it, however, this number has increased exponentially, and even toddlers can’t seem to get enough of it and 2020’s quarantine just made it worse. As it became our main source of communications but still, it cannot be overlooked now that the lockdown is over, we are still reliant on these social media applications. But how do you know when to stop?
Signs of Social Media Addiction
1. Wake and Chat: A very common sign that is seen among heavy social media users, they check their accounts first thing in the morning. We all are guilty of it, as from time to time we all just wake up and are feeling lazy on an off-day so we just pick our smartphones and indulge in these applications. However, if you notice that you are doing it on the daily basis it is an early sign that you might be getting addicted to it. It is best to stop at this stage and take a break from never-ending social media.
2. Anxiety: Ever felt anxious when you are stuck in traffic while you have an interview or a date? Well, it’s not just those scenarios that can trigger it. An individual who’s reliant on these platforms feels anxiety when they are unable to check their phone while they are engaged in another task. For example, if someone is asked to help with a task, they’d be constantly thinking about their phone and if they are unable to check it for a long time, they get anxious.
3. No more hobbies: Each and every single individual has their own personal set of characteristics that we represent via engaging in certain hobbies and activities. This changes tremendously when one encounters social media. Regardless of how much one may enjoy their hobbies, they all are halted in the favor of scrolling content on the screen. In extreme cases, people even put aside their major events because they are unable to get off their phones.
4. Everything is Social Media: On some rare occasions when a dependant individual is able to have an actual in-person conversation with someone they have no topic to converse about but social media. Even though the conversation may begin with something else they find ways to somehow end up talking about their online life, as it becomes much more important and much realistic for them. Additionally, they maintain a record of their life by uploading everything they do on social media platforms in the form of statuses or pictures. Unfortunately, they even begin using their device while walking, or even during driving which can be fatal.
5. Post Monitoring: Granted we’ve all done this every now and then, that once we post something from our account and we are constantly checking how it is doing. However, when a reliant person uploads a post, they are monitoring that specific update very closely. So closely, in fact, that it starts interfering with their personal and professional life, people constantly start using their phones during work hours and school just to communicate with their online world.
6. Phantom Vibration Syndrome: A psychological error that only started showing up recently with the rise of social media. In this, an individual feels that their cellphone is either vibrating or ringing even though it clearly isn’t. Patients have claimed that they can even physically feel their phone go off and they must check their notification. According to experts, this is a clear sign that one is severely dependant on this application and they need appropriate help.
Social Media and our Brain
There is no question that it is taking over many people’s lives and most can’t seem to get away from their devices even for a minute. But why?
- Chemical Alterations: Our brain releases a substance called Dopamine, which is released upon engaging in a pleasurable activity or accomplishing something after hard work. However, using social media makes our brains release dopamine without any effort, resulting in instant gratification and feeling good. This, as you can imagine is very addictive. Not only that, over a period of time it alters the brain structure and individuals become unable to perform any task which requires any effort whatsoever. Additionally, it is seen in these people that their brain works in a similar fashion to that of substance addicts.
- Wandering off: Our brain produces Alpha waves, which are known to be responsible for wakeful relaxation, say when you lay down without doing anything but are awake. In the case of social media, these are enhanced strongly. As a result even though one might be staring at the screen, they wouldn’t be attentive they’d be engaged in a completely different set of thoughts. This ability or disability of our brain makes people habitually use their cellphones while they are trying to relax.
- The Blue light: This doesn’t specifically apply to social media apps, but since we use them on our devices especially during the night, it is important to know as well. Our smartphone displays emit blue light which is not natural. As a result, it triggers our brain into changing the sleep pattern, as our brain understands this information as being day outside. It halts the production of melatonin, a chemical that is responsible for sleep. Ultimately, we are unable to achieve REM sleep, which is vital for restfulness and brain development. Insomnia can also appear in some cases.
Curing Social Media Addiction
As serious as this addiction may be, it is categorized as psychological addiction. Hence, it can be cured or at the very least reduced by altering our mindset and behaviors. Here are some ways that can help fight off this addiction.
- Let it go: To someone who’s already addicted to these platforms, this will sound like a nightmare, but deleting these applications from the smartphone is the first step against it. The key point to remember here is that you won’t be deleting them completely as you can still access them from your computer but it is essential to keep yourself from accessing them instantly. To ease off this process, you can delete the applications for a single day and install them again the following day. Just use them on alternate days.
- Keep it OFF: Another method that really works great for certain individuals is that during work hours or school just switch your phone off. This neglects the need to quickly check your device as one has to switch their phone on first and this delay can help break this constant phone-checking cycle.
- Application Locks: It might sound counter-intuitive, but installing another app might be the solution to this problem. As developers understand that social media addiction is real, they have created an application that puts a timely lock on applications so you are unable to use them for that period. Another way is to put a timely lock on the entire device.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: As mentioned it is a psychological error and it can be fixed with it as well. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is often recommended to individuals who are severely addicted to these platforms. In this therapy, professionals make individuals be able to see their destructive habits and as a result, help them understand their addiction and work on fixing it.
Social media addiction has become a serious issue in today’s world. However, being human we are very much capable of understanding why and how we behave and are able to change those behavioral habits. Also, the mentioned methods can help an individual become resilient against this addiction.