social addiction

Social networking sites have become the cornerstone of communicating in our modern era and an important way of connecting with other people. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok allow users to create a sense of belonging and redefine their way of being in the world. As of the end of 2020, a digital 2020 report published by We Are social Inc. mentioned that over 3.7 billion people are actively using the different types of social media platforms worldwide. Moreover, most of these platforms provide people with information, career interests and interactive forms through virtual communities. Despite the positive vibes these platforms generate, there have been recent developments that have raised questions.

Alarms have been raised about the possibility of a type of social media addiction, causing adverse effects on users and those in contact with them. Notably, the purpose of this article is not to outrightly declare that public social media networks are harmful since they have some benefits. We want to look at the potential negative impacts, the issue of social media addiction, its symptoms, and the best treatment methods.

social addiction

What is Social Media Addiction?

We refer to social media addiction as the relentless urge to use public online platforms even at the cost of real-life relationships and activities. Even though experts are yet to produce an official “social media addiction disorder”, the dangers of public networks are rising at an alarming rate daily. A Nobel-winning prize study conducted in 2014 showed that teenagers’ excessive use of technology caused massive disruptions to their mental and physical health, weight, sleep patterns, exercise levels, and, most importantly, their schoolwork. Young girls seem to be at a higher risk.

The same study showed 40% of the young adults and 21% of adults were using online public networks even while in the bathroom. A recent survey conducted shows that social media addiction on users clocked a mean of 37% from a sample size of 1390 persons. This data would mean that 1 out of 3 people in a group is a potential addict.

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How Public Platforms Affect the Brain

According to Harvard University’s recent study, social networking sites affect the same part of the brain that gets ignited by addictive substances. Our brain has different sections, and for our case, we will focus on the reward section. This section comprises messenger pathways affected by the many decisions we make and the sensations we experience.

Whenever you experience something rewarding or inject any addictive substance into your system, the neurons located in the primary dopamine-producing areas are activated. When these neurons are activated, they cause dopamine levels to rise, thus sending messages to the brain to receive a “reward”, which is also similar to the experience produced by an addictive drug. Upon receiving a notification such as a “mention” or a “like”, the brain also receives information to release dopamine. Once produced and transmitted, dopamine causes the subject to feel pleasure. Public platforms tend to provide an endless number of instant rewards in the form of attention from other platform users.

Addiction to Facebook and other public platforms activates the brain’s reward section, which doubles when individuals speak about themselves. People tend to talk about themselves around 32 to 45% of the time in an actual life situation. Contrary to this fact, people tend to talk about themselves or show off their life’s accomplishments on social media platforms almost 82% of the time. Whenever a user posts a picture and receives positive social feedback, the brain releases dopamine which is regarded as a reward to the behavior and glorifies the social media habit.

Public networking sites are problematic when users view these sites as a vital coping technique that relieves loneliness, depression, and stress. Especially if users perceive social media as giving them more rewards than real-life experiences, forcing them to engage with these sites persistently.

Eventually, they get caught up in denial leading to various interpersonal problems such as ignoring work or school responsibilities, real-life relationships, and even physical and mental health needs. The continuous use of these platforms increases their level of dependency.

Signs of social media addiction
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

The Signs and Symptoms of Social Media Addiction

The Signs of Social Media Addiction

Most users need to be wary of the signs mentioned below in their earlier stages. Users’ alertness will go a long way to help neutralize the addiction faster and before a stronger addiction appears. If any of these signs and symptoms feel too familiar to you, act fast! The sooner you act to stop social media addiction on its tracks, the easier it will be for you to either avoid it altogether or minimize its impact and harm. It’ll also make it easier to stop in the future.

  1. Sharing Every Activity, you Undertake Anytime

By now am sure your mind is racing on that friend who you can keep track of all their minute moves. Alex, a renowned author of the book “The Distraction Addiction,” wrote that people are interested in the amount of fun they have or what they do online rather than what they do in the natural/physical world. We all desire to share our incredible experiences during the last vacations or social gatherings we attended. However, distractions caused by our smartphones when attempting to get the perfect shot makes us miss on more than what we gain.

  1. Knowing a lot of Social Media Information about People who you have little information on them in the Real World

Pang, an Asian Scientist, reported that a vital indicator of social media addiction is having a vast knowledge of people’s social lives compared to real life. What they do, what they ate for breakfast, and which shop they get their merchandise from are readily available online. Such information usually open doors to a long-term intimacy, often not achievable with real-life friends.

Notably, knowledge about an individual without physically meeting them explains the time we spend on their social network platforms. Scholastic study conducted by Mr. Ayeni reported that 90% of teens using public networks concur that a large portion of social media users share too much information about themselves, their loved ones, and their surroundings. Therefore, the million-dollar question is, why do they do it?

  1. Preparing Recipes and Cooking Clips to Share on Social Media Platforms

When making your finger-licking salad for lunch, between enjoying the salad peacefully or sharing it on your page, which one is more important? Furthermore, with the popularity and mass following on these sites, the food’s visual aspect overrules the practical one, eating. This notion has led to improper planning on the meals we wish to prepare, inappropriate shopping for ingredients which eventually leads to mass food wastage.

  1. Feeling Uncomfortable when you Fail to Access your Phone

Have you experienced dissatisfaction when you fail to control Instagram when asked to stop at the traffic lights? Or are you unable to scroll through Facebook before you go to bed? Research has shown that an average person tends to check their phones every 12 minutes while one of them in every 10 persons tends to check theirs after every 4 minutes. Inability to access their phones leads to anxiety, which shows how dependent we are on social media platforms.

  1. Unhappiness Caused from Comparing Yourself with Social Media Personas

Jealousy is the other sign that depicts the dangerous dimensions that social media dependence has placed over your life. Having the freedom to select what we desire to share online has opened the floodgates to creation of online personas. Even though we get to see a fraction of their real world online, we often choose to throw that fact under the bus and continue stalking them. Whenever you begin feeling jealous over your friends’ celebrations, homes, cars, and body measurements, your public network addition has probably gone overboard.

The Symptoms of Social Media Addiction

Social media addiction shows the following symptoms

  • Lack of concentration on physical activities
  • Feeling guilty repeatedly
  • Sleep disorders
  • Overweight and obese
  • Anxiety and dishonesty
  • Low self-esteem and loneliness
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS): This condition causes numbness, weakness or tingling on your hand. This condition may be caused by spending too much time on your phone
  • Depression: Due to lack of motivation resulting in low productivity at work and poor school performance

Notably, many of these symptoms are majorly caused by unrealistic expectations that social media users subject themselves to. Moreover, they tend to survive on pretense of living a glamourous lifestyle showcased by the affluent social media users.

The Plausible Ways for Breaking Social Media Addiction

The only way to salvage yourself from social media addiction is by first accepting you have this problem. You tend to discover that you are deeply affected if you are constantly asked to put down your phone or when your family members complain of your unavailability or repeatedly miss or come late for scheduled activities since you were engaged in social media platforms. Breaking the addiction chain cannot happen by abrupt abstinence from online activities, although you can begin by setting limits. Moreover, you can control your internet usage by following these steps.

  • Deletion of unnecessary mobile chatting applications
  • Dedicating your time to other social activities or hobbies
  • Deactivating the push notifications to lessen the traffic on alerts. This reduces the urges to check your feeds frequently
  • Proper Allocation of time for online activities: You can indulge yourself in other productive activities such as reading a book, workouts or taking walks
  • Maximum allocation of your free time to your family members and friends since they are the first respondents to most of your social needs
  • You can also seek professional help if you cannot manage your addiction from an individual perspective or within your circle

Illness and Antisocial Behaviors Associated with Social Media

In recent years, heavy dependence on social media has caused mental illnesses to rise to new prevalence in the forms of voyeurism, paranoia, antisocial tendencies, and narcissism. Moreover, the Fear of Missing Out or FOMO could be among the pacesetters of most inappropriate behaviors posted on social media feeds. Also, there is a group that dwells on the shock factor, and the more the mass that reacts to the post, the more satisfaction is derived. This gives room to reinforce the behavior.

Some of the traits that are regarded as antisocial include the inability to be remorseful for wrongdoings, inability to show empathy, complete disregard to other people’s feelings and bullying. Furthermore, the prevalence of antisocial traits has dominated the internet, especially after the breakout of the novel coronavirus. Daily we witness horrible acts of violence, cyberbullying, racial abuses, self-mutilation with extremities leading to loss of life. All these acts can be attributed to antisocial behaviors spreading across the internet.

How to Use Social Media Safely

Among the wake-up calls to mitigate public network additions is when you begin experiencing frustrations on the number of chatting apps on your phone. At this point, to salvage your wellbeing, here are a few tips for consideration.

  1. Learn to live in the Moment

Even though the urge to post fun activities online becomes pressing with time, allow yourself to give in occasionally. However, never let these urges overshadow the actual feeling of living these moments and enjoying real-time experiences.

  1. Follow Feeds that Brings you Gratification

This will help ensure that the extent of exposure is only to people and things that generate positive vibes while you are online. Furthermore, you will get essential takeaways, which can be applied in different situations, such as conflict resolution.

  1. Avoid Making Comparisons with Online Personas

When scrolling through people’s content, always keep in mind that what they share only depicts a small portion of their lives. Hence, comparing yourself to their online lives will create a feeling of inadequacy, leading to unhealthy obsessions while you continue stalking them.

  1. Always Filter your Content Before Posting

Learn to post content that best fits all social groups in society. This will prevent creating online chaos while maintaining the status quo and passing your message effectively.


Public networking sites have become increasingly omnipresent today. However, this should not give room for addiction or inappropriate usage of the platform. Ensure you set clear boundaries and prioritize your time efficiently to prevent over reliance on social media.

Author: Peter Diaz
Peter Diaz profile

Peter Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Peter is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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