A Guide to Social Media Addiction

By The Fix staff 07/21/14

Social Media is a major part of life almost everywhere and most of us know people who spend huge amounts of time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and similar services. Much has been written in recent years about compulsive or addictive social media practices or habits.    

How can social media be abused?

Habitual social media use rises to the status of behavioral addiction once it becomes compulsive - that is, if users can't pull themselves away, spend a significant amount of time (some psychiatrists have deemed it to be five hours or more a day), and allow social media to interfere with everyday functioning and "real life" interaction.

How does social media affect the brain?

Features (such as likes and tweets) that indicate praise on websites and applications give users a burst of the neurotransmitter dopamine, while a lack of endorsements can trigger jealousy and anxiety. There have been noted cases of depression in adolescents caused in part by constantly seeing a Facebook-filtered (and biased) view of others’ lives. Descriptive norms for alcohol usage as portrayed in user profiles also affects decisions to consume alcohol. Some studies have linked social media compulsiveness to narcissism, a personality disorder.

Signs of Abuse

An overall sign that someone is addicted to social media is when he or she avoids day-to-day offline life and displays a disregard for a fundamental level of self care. Addicts have been known to delay eating, drinking and sleeping, and anything involving work or school. They often also shun socializing outside of their favorite online applications.

Long Term Effects of Abuse

Not surprisingly, some studies have shown correlation between social media addiction and poor grades or declining work performance. Given that this behavior is relatively new, long-term effects on the mind and body are yet to be determined. Some coders of social media sites are currently developing methods to evaluate signs of depression.   










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