Can’t stop tweeting, posting and poking? Perhaps they’re a social media addict.
Today, Instagram’s co-founder Keven Systrom said his photo sharing social media site is a daily habit for over half of it’s users. The popular social networking site has quadrupled in size, from 86 billion image uploads in 2000 to 360 billion in 2011, he boasted.
Systrom has a lot to boast about. His social media baby was bought by fellow social media giant Facebook in April 2012 for $1 billion, despite never earning a profit. That’s right, Instagram had never earned any revenue, yet the world’s largest social networking platform purchased it for a billion dollars.
Social media – as most media – is habit forming.
One typically gets into a daily routine when it comes to watching favorite shows on television, listening to favorite podcasts, or even reading favorite books, magazines, newspapers or blogs.
Facebook was purchasing addicted users to feed into it’s already hugely habit-forming social media empire.
However, when habits begin to interfere with daily lives – where one simply can’t do anything else until they’ve had their social media ‘fix’ – then it has become an addiction. Just look at some of these amazing statistics about craving for social media:
- Facebook has 850 million active users, and 488 million of those people use Facebook regularly on their mobile device.
- In 2012, 175 million tweets were sent from Twitter every day. Thirty-two percent of all Internet users use Twitter.
- Instagram had an average of 7.3 million daily active users in 2012, and they averaged 257 minutes accessing the site on their mobile device.
- Google’s famous +1 ‘like’ button is clicked 5 billion times a day.
From announcing to the world the death of Michael Jackson, to sharing the horrific images of the devastation left from Hurricane Sandy, to warming hearts as people remember Nelson Mandela, social media’s impact on the world has been nothing less than enormous.
For most, social media is just a hobby, but for many it’s become a must do task, which does interfere in poeples lives.
One can’t seem to talk to anyone right away when going to a family dinner, without first posting about the arrival on a social network, or even don’t go to that family dinner, because they are so engaged in social media – then they’re probably are a social media addict.
Why is social media so addictive?
A recent Harvard University study showed that disclosing personal information activates the same part of the brain that gives pleasure when a person enjoys good food, receiving money or having sex. Although the actual sensation between all of these is different, the study tells one that the human brain considers sharing experiences a pleasurable one – and part of being human is to constantly seek things which gives much pleasure.
Those with addictive personalities are more prone to becoming addicted to anything – food, money, sex, social media – or anything else which gives humans pleasure.
Social media addicts become addicted not to the actual act of tweeting, friending, poking or posting, rather, they become addicted to the pleasure derived from those actions.
That’s why breaking out of an addiction is so hard – because although they know that one should be doing something else, it pains them to stop. Ending something pleasurable is a very tough thing. Just ask anyone who’s tried to quit smoking, lose weight, or refrain from sexual intercourse.
Not everyone is prone to social media addiction – here are some factors which put one at a greater risk:
- Anxiety – A person that uses social media as a distraction from dealing with the bigger problems in life. By communicating with anonymous people around the world about their lives, they can ignore their own problems.
- Depression – Social media makes them feel better because it gives them pleasure, but too much time online makes things worse, by contributing to stress, isolation and loneliness.
- Addictive Personality Type – If they have other addictions, such as drugs, alcohol, gambling or sex, they could have an addictive personality. This personality type is more prone to other addictions – and they could add social media to their list of addictions.
- Loneliness – They lack the support of friends and family in the real world, so they seek out new relationships online. However, the lack of real world friends and family leaves them vulnerable to being taken advantage of online, or developing relationships which aren’t real, and just add to their loneliness and depression.
- Stress – Many use the Internet to relieve stress, others spend so much time online, it causes even more stress. It becomes a never ending cycle, where they feel the need to go online to check their social networks, yet they realize they have to do other things in the day, which they won’t have time for.
Think someone may be prone to social media addiction? Perhaps one also is – or aren’t – there are no medically set hours of use per day or number of posts online. It really varies by person to person. Ultimately, if one’s use of social media is interfering with daily life, then they may be addicted. Here are the common warning signs and symptoms of social media addiction:
- Lost Time – Do they lose track of time? Do they frequently find themselves online longer than they intended to be? Does a few minutes turn into a few hours? Do they get irritated or upset if their time online is interrupted?
- Other Tasks Don’t Get Done – Do they skip meals to stay online? Does laundry or other chores not get done? Do they stay up late online, when they do already know they need to go to bed for an early day? Do they miss appointments, meetings, or constantly run late because they spent too much time online?
- Isolation – Do they feel nobody in the real world understands them? Do they think their online friends are more important than those they have known for a long time in the real world? Have they got into arguments or even broken up with their spouse or partner because of the amount of time they spend online? Are they neglecting their family and friends because the people they interact with online seem more “real?”
- Guilty or Defensive Feelings – Do they feel guilty or get defensive about their social media habits? Are they sick of their spouse nagging them to get off the computer, or to put their smartphone down? Have they ever hidden or lied to their family and friends about what they were doing, to avoid getting nagged about their social media use? Have they ever lied or hid their social media use from their boss? Do they tend to feel guilty or shameful when others approach them while they are online?
- Nothing Beats Social Media – Do they feel a sense of euphoria while online? Have they ever used social media for sexual gratification or excitement? Do they use the Internet when they are stressed out, sad, or otherwise unhappy, to give them joy? Have they tried to limit their social media time, but failed?
- Physical Symptoms of Social Media Addiction – Do they suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, dry eyes/eye strain, back aches/neck aches, severe headaches, lack of sleep, pronounced weight loss or gain?
Okay, so they may be a social media addict – help!
Right now – today – they can do any of the following to break their social media addiction:
- Find the Cause – Think about why they get so much pleasure out of social media. Usually, there is an underlying problem which they are escaping from by using something else – such as drugs, alcohol, or in this case – social media.
- Seek Support – Once they’ve figured out the underlying cause, talk to a professional therapist. They can also help them find the underlying cause too.
- Build Real Supportive Relationships – The more relationships they have in the real world, the less they’ll need to rely on the Internet and social media for interaction. Set aside time for friends and family. Join local groups and clubs which they share a common interest, such as book clubs, sports teams, or other such organizations. This way, they’ll build real relationships naturally in the real world.
- Limit Internet Use – Keep track of their social media use, log how long they stay online. Over time, set specific time limits and times when they can access the Internet, and stick to those times. Start with broad large blocks of time at first, and GRADUALLY reduce the time online. Set goals throughout the day for accomplishing in the real world, and use the Internet time as a reward for completing that goal.
Good luck in conquering the social media addiction. Remember – one is not alone. In some ways, everyone has guilty pleasures, but some need a little more help moving onto other things.
By Jordan H. Green