Q&A: Could you be addicted to social media?

Dear Sofie,

I wonder if you can be addicted to social media? Many say they are addicted, but I’m not sure they mean it. Some people are constantly begging for confirmation from their followers and friends. What is it all about? I’m not a big user of social media, so I’m definitely not addicted.

Answer

It’s a relevant question, and the answer depends on what school of thoughts you subscribe to. Addiction can be divided into two categories:

1) You can be addicted to:

  • alcohol
  • drugs
  • smoking
  • sugar, and many other things.

2) Or you can do something you know is not good for you, but you do it anyway:

  • constantly gaming
  • staying in destructive relationships, aka codependency
  • too much physical exercise
  • spending all your time watching porn online
  • shopping too much
  • always asking for more attention.

All are expressions of addiction.

It’s common that you stop with one addiction, and replace it with a new one. An addict seldom has enough. They want more and more and more. Addiction behaviors lead to excess dopamine in the brain.

Some people have described how their news feeds on Facebook were becoming an addiction.

Other social media users have admitted they got addicted to the attention and likes they got on social media, and that was driving them to do share stories and photos that would get enough attention. In the end, it was not sustainable. Being seen and heard online gives you short-term satisfaction, and for some people it can damage their self-esteem, and making them beg for even more attention.

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The social media networks have designed their products to become habit-forming. The more time you spend in their networks, the better for them, they sell more advertisement. They know a lot about human behaviour, and how we act online, and they use this knowledge to make us stay longer and check in more often. They are like the food industry, which have been adding sugar into their products, plus amazing scents, and making the food crunch in a way so we cannot resist eating more. The social media networks are ‘smart’.

We want to belong to the group, and if we are away from our group for a long time we may be forgotten. Social media has that effect on us. To stay connected is a crucial human need, as is eating.

I would say that you can become addicted to social media and other online activities.  

What’s next and how to prevent it then? It’s hard to answer; I will leave this question here, and see if I can get an addiction expert to share their view.

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I read this on Everyday health

Internet Addiction Symptoms

Like other addictions, Internet addiction isn’t based on just an interest or hobby that someone enjoys.

If it’s an actual addiction, it may cause one or more of the following:

  • Negative effects on your school or job performance
  • Reduced involvement with your family or friends
  • Loss of interest in other hobbies or pursuits
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression when you’re away from your computer
  • When not on your computer, you spend most of your time thinking about getting back to it
  • Angry or defensive reaction when someone comments on your behavior
  • Taking steps to hide the extent of your computer/Internet use
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Sofie Sandell