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Social Media Addiction Treatment

Social media addiction is one of the most widespread forms of behavioral addiction: an activity that people get addicted to like drugs and alcohol.

It started with Myspace and continued with Facebook and YouTube. In the past decade, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok have become part of most people’s lives. Some people spend all their free hours on these apps.

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What Causes Social Media Addiction?

There are numerous factors at play with social media addiction. For consumers, it’s the endless rush of free content in all conceivable categories. For creators with large followings, it’s the nonstop attention and adoration. For those trying to build followings, it’s the dream of fame and prestige. 

  • Infinite access – People get hooked on social media because it presents multiple forms of entertainment, arousal, action and scandal. With one hand, users can flip through countless reels and images in their scroll feeds. It’s a nonstop rush of instant satisfaction that triggers dopamine levels in the brain. 
  • Instant gratification – With social media, people have all their entertainment and fake news consumption in one place. A man can look at action reels one moment and flip through scantily clad models the next. A girl can browse her favorite makeup influencers and then post videos of herself twerking to the latest trending song.
  • Interaction – A lot of people use social media as a substitute for social interaction. Many users spend hours each day posting comments and replying to other people’s remarks. Those who’ve built followings often spend more time replying to their followers than they do interacting in the real world. 
  • Infotainment overload – Since the dawn of Web 2.0, lines have blurred between entertainment and hard news. As legacy news sources report through biased filters and lay people get more radicalized, the conflation of entertainment and info is more widespread, toxic and clickbaity than ever. Many users get hooked on the armchair bloodsport of gnawing others over partisan issues. 
  • Titillation – Instagram and TikTok have ongoing floods of “thirst trap” content. Gone are the days when men had to go to adult bookstores and strip clubs to see some T&A; now there’s more free titillation in the palm of the user’s hand. For men, it’s substitute sex. For the women who post such content, it’s ego gratification.
  • Attention – For the users who partake in social media as content creators, platforms like TikTok, Instagram and YouTube serve as attention mediums. Some users post twerking videos; others post daredevil stunts; others post hoax muggings. The themes and topics are endless. Some creators base their self-worth on “likes”, shares and view count.
  • Voyeurism – A lot of people gawk at social media personalities through a one-way funnel. For shy and socially awkward people, social media is a 24-hour opportunity to see and not be seen. This feeds all sorts of curiosities, from lust-crazed males who gawk at models nonstop to nosey people who love to peek at the lives of strangers.
  • Sensationalism – These days, social media breaks news before all the legacy outlets. Millions of users get hooked on the constant spate of celebrity gossip, political scandals, disaster porn and “Karen” videos. Events that are often traumatic for those involved become sleazy entertainment for the millions who laugh, mock and satirize these public episodes.

Social media is the culmination of more than 100 years of entertainment mediums, distilled into flashing images and soundbites that fit onto people’s smartphones. In the past, everyone had their independent vices, whether they were gossip mongers, TV couch potatoes, vain makeup junkies or strip club Waldos. Social media combines all these addictions into a free 24-hour feed.

Symptoms of Social Media Addiction

Today, just about everyone uses social media. Some people go overboard and lose their sense of time and priority when they get on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter. Social media addiction takes hold as the user neglects friends, family, work, studies and real-world responsibilities, all because that user can’t pull away from his/her favorite apps.

  • Social withdrawal – As users get hooked on social media, they lose their desire for social interaction in the real world. Some users don’t notice the change; they’ll make plans to call up friends yet can’t pull themselves away from the endless TikTok feeds. For isolated individuals, social media is another excuse to not conquer their shyness. 
  • Declining work performance – Anyone can pull up their TikTok, Instagram and Facebook accounts within seconds on their smartphones and browse in any location. This can be quite distracting at school or work, where you’re supposed to be on task. Some people get so distracted on their smartphones that their grades and job performances suffer.
  • Neglect of responsibilities – People often indulge in their social media addictions at the expense of their daily responsibility. This is especially problematic for people with rooms to clean, dishes to wash, laundry to do, kids to watch, bills to pay, etc. 
  • Procrastination – As social media addiction takes hold, people lose sight of deadlines. They’ll think today is the day to do x, y and z, yet scroll through social media until 8:00 pm without even touching x. Some users think “just one more reel” or “I just got to see the latest upload from so and so” and delay pressing matters till the eleventh hour. 
  • Thinking about social media nonstop – Social media addiction is an all-consuming mental obsession. When the user is separated from his/her favorite app, that person still thinks about it nonstop. The user could be at class, work, a meeting, a luncheon, a wedding or some other social event and spend the whole time wondering who has posted what on Instagram or TikTok.
  • Depression and guilt – When people spend too much time on social media, they’re usually aware of the problem and feel some sense of shame. A person struggling with social media addiction might feel depressed about the days gone to waste and the goals unachieved due to social media overload.

Social media was designed to bring people joy and serve as new, accessible mediums for various talents. The downside is that some people can’t self-regulate their time on these apps. Like all behaviors that bring joy (food, sex), some people lose their sense of priority once social media overtakes all other areas of life.

Psychological Impact of Social Media Addiction

Social media provides free flashes into the personal and (in some cases) fairytale lives of interesting and well-marketed people. It lets users travel to destinations far and wide and see the world from unusual vantage points, including high-altitude free fall. In short, social media is a phantasmagoria of real and unreal still and moving imagery. On free instant feeds, this can make users feel:

  • Insecurity – Social media makes many users feel insecure about their looks, talent and social latitude. Girls often compare themselves to influencers and feel insecure about their weight, figure, hair and style. Males often gawk at female influencers and fawn with a defeatist “I could never have her” attitude.
  • Envy – Social media has caused a mass funnel of envy. Some of the early adopters got lucky because they understood its potential before most people knew about Instagram and TikTok. Many since have tried and failed because their content lacks focus. Others deserve more followers but can’t hack the platform’s algorithm. 
  • Narcissism – On social media, some of the popular influencers get conceited about their large followings because they confuse these numbers for super-human importance. They think their views are more important than those of others, even the views of proven experts who aren’t prominent on social media. Many viewers reinforce these delusions.  
  • Dysmorphia – Social media can cause people to feel insecure about their bodies and faces. Women might feel unattractive if they don’t have round boobs and bubble butts like Kim Kardashian. Men might feel attractive if they aren’t tall and jacked with six-pack abs. Now that so many people use FaceApp, users are growing accustomed to unrealistic appearances.
  • Depression – Social media can cause people to feel depressed for numerous reasons. Some people spend too much time scrolling through TikTok and Instagram and feel guilty about their lack of productivity. Influencer envy or lust can also cause depression; from the girl who wants to be Jenna Marbles to the boy obsessed with Laci Kay Somers.
  • Loss of touch with the real world – Some people get so wrapped up in social media that they hardly know about recent events in their local community. There could be an upcoming county election or a new zoning law taking effect, but the user doesn’t know because he/she spends all day scrolling, liking and commenting on pics and reels.

These days, everyone feels that they must use social media to stay connected with the outside world. More dangerous is the notion that everyone will have to thrive as content creators on social media to get anywhere in their professional and personal lives. It’s a depressing notion for the average consumer with no creative impulse. 

Physical Effects of Social Media Addiction

Social media is a sedentary addiction that can lead to various physical problems. Users typically strain their hands and eyes while seated in awkward positions for hours on end. This can cause:

  • Sore back – Social media addiction can cause back pain due to all the sitting involved. On Facebook, one of the largest demographics is older users, who typically access the internet on desktop PCs. Younger people are more likely to use smartphones, but even they often sit idly at coffee shops while flipping through their Insta feeds.
  • Weight gain – Social media consumption is a sedentary activity. Users often gain weight without noticing the difference. Even people who limit their time on social media to 90 minutes a day could pack on inches if the ritual includes a bag of potato chips and/or a caramel latte.
  • Sore neck – Some users sit with bad posture, which can take its toll as time passes by on social media. When users slouch in crumpled positions with their necks ajar, it can lead to soreness along the vertebrate. 
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome – Some users strain their hands on social media. Young people often flip through feeds on their smartphones while holding other things with the opposite hand. This can strain the wrist and palm and make it more difficult to hold things without discomfort.
  • Eye strain – Constant social media activity can cause eye strain. The constant flood of small images can take its toll as users focus on key details. People who read small text pdfs and articles (via Facebook) on their smartphones are most at risk. 
  • Declining appearance – People who get too preoccupied with social media and other sedentary activities (gaming, porn) tend to neglect their style, grooming and hygiene. 
  • Sleeping problems – Constant social media use can make people feel restless when it’s time for bed and lazy when it’s time for work.

From a physical standpoint, the dangerous thing about social media is that it satisfies human wants and needs with the press of a prompt. People no longer have to leave home and walk distances to see and hear the things they get fed nonstop on Instagram and TikTok.

Treatment for Social Media Addiction

People with social media addiction can usually find help at clinics that offer therapy for behavioral health disorders. To help patients conquer the habit, counselors offer:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – Unhealthy behavior often stems from deep-seated voices in a person’s subconscious. To the social media addict, that internal voice might say “social media is the best thing in life.” CBT helps patients reverse these voices with mottos like “social media is a waste of time.” From there, it’s easier to get past the habit.
  • Experiential therapy – This helps patients adopt new, experience-based activities. Examples include art therapy, music therapy, animal care, equine therapy (interaction with horses, a popular choice) and outdoor activity. Activities like these, which get people off the internet, engage the mind (art, music) and heart (animals).
  • Life skills training – This helps patients develop proactive daily habits like task management, interaction and goal setting. 

Social media can be an obsessive habit for many users but it’s not a chemical addiction like cocaine or heroin, which alter how the brain waves send pleasure signals through the body. People can overcome social media addiction without enduring cramps, headaches and the physical symptoms associated with drug withdrawal.

Get Help for Social Media Addiction

Get Help Today

Don't go through the process of recovery alone. There are people who can help you with the struggle you're facing. Get in touch with one today.

Make a Call

If someone you know struggles with social media addiction, talk with that person and encourage him/her to partake in different activities offline. If this is someone close who lives with you, try to arrange more joint activities that will get you both out of the house and away from PCs and smartphones. 

If you can’t pull the person away from special media, contact the counseling centers in your area that offer behavioral addiction treatment. A person can beat social media addiction as long as the individual has proper guidance. 

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