I was recently asked to be part of a radio discussion about social media addiction. There has been so much in the news recently about social media, particularly Facebook, and people trying to decide whether to delete their accounts and whether they feel they can do without that contact. How easy is it to stop the habit of checking your Facebook account or is it an addiction?
We use the word addiction a bit too freely. It is a serious medical condition that can ruin lives. It’s often used in a way that demonises the behaviour of young people. When I was young, parents were worried that kids would be addicted to television. Now they are worried about social media.
So what does it mean to be addicted? You can become addicted to anything that affects the reward circuitry in the brain. It’s not about the substance or the behaviour, it’s about the way the brain responds through changing structure and releasing hormones such as dopamine and endorphin. A person experiencing an addiction carries on repeating the habit or behaviour regardless of the negative consequences.
Someone with a social media addiction would feel compelled to check their social media sites frequently and be unable to control the amount of time they spend online. This is likely to be accompanied by feelings of anxiety. The negative impacts could include:
- Losing track of time
- Need for instant gratification
- Reduced self-esteem
- Feelings of guilt
- Being emotionally unavailable
Stopping the behaviour for a short period of time may be quite easy. The challenge is not going back to it or taking up a new addiction to replace it.
If you recognise any of this in yourself or someone you know, the first step to recovery is to admit that you have a problem and that you need help. Don’t let it ruin your life.
If you think you have just developed a habit that is wasting your time there are some steps you can take to break the habit:
- Leave mobile devices outside the bedroom so they do not disturb your sleep.
- Turn off message alerts
- Limit your exposure. Decide how much time you are going to look at the website and stick to it
- Delete sites from mobile devices so you don’t get tempted. Or make them password protected to make it harder for you to access the sites quickly
If you need help, don’t put it off, contact me now