Social Media Addiction

What is Addiction?

Addiction is when a behavior begins to interfere with daily life. If the behavior causes trouble in your relationships, hurts your work or school performance, or interferes with your sleep, it might be an addiction. The behavior can be abusing substances or a “process addiction” like online media. While most people associate addiction with drugs or alcohol, it’s also possible to be addicted to activities, such as gambling, sex, or screen use.

What Impact Does Social Media Have On Alcohol Addiction?

Social Media and Substance Abuse

Online media sites may influence people, especially young people, to engage in tobacco, drug, and marijuana use, according to the Child Mind Institute.2 People using online media can see others using these substances and are more likely to view the behavior as normal.

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What is Social Media?

The term refers to a multitude of websites and apps where people can communicate and connect virtually instead of in-person. Examples include social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Tinder.

Why Is Online Media Used?

People use online media for a variety of reasons. This includes connecting with friends and family. Some people use it for business, to gain a wider audience or to educate others on their products.

According to an article in the journal Cyberpsychology, an estimated 12 percent of people who use online media experience addiction

When Did It Start?

According to Small Biz Trends, it started in 1997 with the website “Six Degrees.”

Online Media Sites

Some online media sites include:

This site launched in 2004 and now has a worldwide presence and more than 2.45 billion monthly active users. Users can share photos, videos, and create groups to connect with each other.

A “microblogging” network where people send out announcements or Tweets in 280 characters or less. Twitter has an estimated 321 million active users.

An e-commerce site where people can buy and sell items, such as clothing and collectibles.

A video-sharing site and app where users can share and comment on videos.

A messaging app where users send pictures or videos they cannot save. The app has 210 million daily active users.

A video-sharing service where users often create short dance, talent, or comedy videos.

Meetup is an app where people join groups based on similar interests.

A site that aggregates or collects news for participants to rate or comment on.

Pinterest is a site where people can create “boards” of photos or videos, often for visual inspiration. Nearly 300 million active users utilize Pinterest each month.

A microblogging site where people create short-form blogs to share with others. An estimated 475 million blogs are on Tumblr.

Why is Social Media Addictive?

According to an article in Forbes magazine, online media is addictive “by design.”5 This means the more time a person spends scrolling and clicking, the more notifications they receive. The notifications “hijack” the brain in a similar way as addictive substances, sending out Dopamine when a notification is received. This creates an addictive behavior loop.

It’s hard to know why some people become addicted to online media, and others don’t. Some doctors think people who are addicted to online media already have addictive-type personalities and are more likely to struggle with addiction in several forms.

According to Psychology Today, there are very few people who are truly addicted to social media.6 However, some people may use it in a problematic way, such as checking it while driving. This increases the risks for car accidents.

Other problematic behaviors as a result of excessive use include avoiding others, even in social settings, in favor of checking online media frequently. Some people may also refrain from going to places socially because they are too busy with their phones or computers.

Compared with Internet Addiction Disorder

According to an article in the journal Cyberpsychology, social media addiction is very similar to or is a form of Internet addiction.3 Internet addiction can include excessive time spent on the Internet.

Facebook Addiction

Most of the studies regarding addiction and online media are related to the use of Facebook.3 Since Facebook is relatively new in the grand scheme of research, there aren’t a tremendous amount of studies. However, according to Cyberpsychology, excess Facebook use is associated with increased risks for depression, problems sleeping, and anxiety. Studies have also revealed excessive Facebook use can result in low school performance and less satisfaction with life and overall well-being.

Online Media Addiction Facts

According to the Cleveland Clinic, studies about online media found the longer a person has used it, the more likely they are to make risky decisions. The Cleveland Clinic also reported that the more people use it, the more likely they are to have physical problems.

According to an article in Psychology Today, doctors have linked online media addiction with increased risks for psychological disorders, including:



Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)


How Social Media Affects Us

Social media isn’t all bad. Some people report that viewing and editing their social media profiles actually enhanced their self-esteem, according to Cyberpsychology.3 However, studies have also linked online media use with an increased risks of depression and anxiety.

Symptoms of Social Media Addiction

Some of the potential symptoms of social media addiction include the following:

  • Spending a significant amount of time thinking about or planning social media interactions
  • Uncontrollable urges to use online media
  • Using it to forget about worries or personal issues
  • Attempting to cut back, but being unable to do so
  • Becoming frustrated or restless when online media hasn’t been used in some time
  • Using it so often that it affects a job or lifestyle

Psychological Effects on Youth

Online media can give young people an unrealistic view of the lives of others. For example, sometimes people believe that someone’s life is more exciting or glamorous than it really is because of exciting pictures or videos.3 Also, sometimes young people receive negative feedback on their posts. This can have a profoundly negative effect on self-esteem and overall sense of well-being.

How to Stop Using Social Media

If a person is genuinely addicted to social media, most experts will recommend professional medical treatment.6 This may include therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy to teach how to become less reliant on it.

It is hard to treat social media addiction because online media is seemingly everywhere in the United States. Also, it isn’t realistic to think that a person won’t have a smartphone because they will often need it for school or work. Therefore, it’s important that to seek professional medical attention if you or a loved one is struggling with online media usage. Treatment can teach strategies to cut back or stop use altogether.

How to Limit Social Media

Therapists usually recommend a “online media detox” as a way to reduce abuse.

Some tips to do so include:

  • Turning off sound notifications that indicate changes or new messages
  • Limiting the number of times it can be checked, anywhere from every 30 minutes to one hour
  • Setting specific times in the course of the day where you refrain from checking it at all
  • Leaving the smartphone in another room for a certain time period so it cannot be checked
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