Social Media – Too Much of a Good Thing?

Social Media Addiction. How can we possibly be addicted to social media – it wasn’t even invented until a few years ago.  We decided to look at the Pew Research paper on Social media use in the US to see just how much people use social media. Check it out, but if you are under 40 odds are over 80% of you are using social media daily. And 70% of those people are using Facebook every day.  The use stats on all of the major networks in the US are in the link.  And if you are thinking it is just Millennials with this issue – think again.  In January of this year, the NY Times reported that Gen X’ers spend more time on Social Media than Millennials.

Can Social Media be an Addiction?

The term “social media addiction” is often seen in newspaper headlines. We should not be so quick to attach the word “addiction” to social media activities, experts say. “Addiction is a word that must not be used lightly to label a set of behaviors,” says Mark Fabbri, director of the Psychology degree program for South University. “Addiction is related to a compulsion to consume something or engage in a set of behaviors to the point that it significantly interferes with a person’s life.”

And addiction usually refers to compulsive behavior that leads to negative effects. In most addictions, people feel compelled to do certain activities so often that they become a harmful habit, which then interferes with other important activities such as work or school.

Addiction and the Internet

The dictionary defines addiction as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, such as narcotics, to such a magnitude that its cessation causes severe trauma.” Fabbri points out that common, identified addictions include sex, gambling, various substances, and even the internet.

The Internet has become the backbone of society, even here in the south hills of Pittsburgh PA.  This is true especially for small business owners such as our practice owner. Since more and more, “digitally native” people have grown up on Social Media platforms, one of the best ways to market your services and products or brand is via channels that web users love to network and communicate on. The main labor of social media is getting connected.

Signs of Social Media Addiction

Many people spend on average half of their day tapping away at their hand-held devices, either surfing the net or checking notifications. Like substance-related addictions, Social Media Addiction joins the knowledge of the ‘classic’ addiction symptoms.  These including the following:

  • Reverting back – so if you try to stay away and you just are drawn to go back to your favorite network when you know you should be doing something else – like work or making dinner
  • Withdrawal – what happens to you if you do not have your smartphone and can not “just see what’s happening” – does it make you nervous?
  • Denial – are you saying right now – I don’t have a problem with social media addiction – like the old saying about being an alcoholic – if you are asking the question, you probably are addicted.
  • Secrecy – do you put your phone down quickly when your spouse asks you what you are doing – or say just checking the weather – or reading email – when you are lost in thought about family rooms on Pinterest?
  • Change of interest – are you at dinner with your family and finding that you are more interested in what is happening on Facebook?
  • Increased tolerance – are you finding that you need more and more – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and one and on – that you just need a little more every day – just checking in to see what is happened before you to bed?
  • Obsessiveness – are you constantly wondering what’s going on – constable feeling a need to share what you are going – wondering why people are not commenting on your posts?

Does This Sound Like You?

So, if you answered yes to some of these symptoms, it is time to consider the idea more completely.  And if you think you are alone in this, in researching this blog, I found this post in the Huffington Post last year about the death of Joan Rivers being affected by Doctors in the Operating Room being distracted by social media during the operation.

What Makes Us So Addicted?

Social networks have the energy to make us feel connected to other people.  Today we find that we are moving from place to place, job to job and sometimes spouse to spouse over the course of our lifetimes, We have an innate need to feel connected to others. The Internet and Social Media have combined to make us feel connected. They go one step further. They expand the options of showing and playing identities. We can pretend to be more than we are, prettier, smarter more connected, healthier and on and on.  These tools fulfill the most deeply human being need of finding a suitable “identity”  and connection in a public context.

When I thought about writing this post, I was going to use it as a forum to scold those horribly annoying people who can’t have lunch with you because they’re too busy tweeting about having lunch with you. And then I realized I am one of those people and I grew immensely uncomfortable. I used to be normal. Then I got an iPhone.

I used to have this wretched little Blackberry that did nothing – and even that it does poorly. I would gaze at my husband’s iPhone with a longing in my heart: the touch screen, the plethora of apps, Facebook so clear and bright. So when it was finally time for an upgrade, I splurged on my own iPhone. Now I find I have to control my use of that phone.

How is Social Media Addiction Bad for Mental Health?

We all need to feel connected to other people.  Today we live complicated busy lives.  Real relationships provide support and meet our innate need to belong, to have self-worth and to feel loved and accepted.  When social media breaks the bonds of real relationships, we suffer.  And it can drive our partners away, seeking community elsewhere. This too is bad for our mental and physical health.

When our obsession interferes with our job, it is bad.  Consider this.  What happens if social media addiction leads to a poor performance review because we are not getting our jobs done. What happens to our sense of self-worth? It probably goes down.  And if we are told we are a rock star at work? We feel better.

When we tweet at five in the morning the first thought that comes into our head and it makes no sense to others, what does that do?  It affects the quality of our relationships.  People see us as perhaps unstable and not to be trusted.  They then look at us differently.  They begin to distance themselves from us.

So social media addiction is bad for our mental health when it affects the way people see us and how we behave.

Social Media Addiction, Are You at Risk?

So to recap what we have been talking about and bring it to you do any or all of these apply to you?

  • Attempting to hide the amount of time spent on social media
  • Failing to take care of work, home, or social responsibilities due to the behavior
  • Finding it hard to control the amount of time spent on these websites
  • Friends and family are concerned about the behavior
  • A feeling of defensive when the subject of social media use is mentioned (this can be due to denial)
  • Losing interest in other hobbies and activities
  • Withdrawing from people in the real world in order to spend more time online
  • Finding it hard to stop using these websites.
social media addiction

Colorful tech devices interacting with each other in a modern office

What Can You Do Yourself?

I was surprised at how many books were already available on social media addiction.  There is one short book that you can get on Amazon for your Kindle that is a quick read about how you can kick the habit.  The book is called “Hooked” and our favorite things to do to get unhooked from the book include:

  • Putting your smartphone away and turning it off you are on a date during dinner
  • No social media after 8 PM
  • Turn off notifications on your phone

To see more you can order the book ‘Hooked’ by Kevin Clive online at Amazon. You will also see a number of other self-help books to get you started on your road to being addiction free.

Social Media Addiction Counseling

Heavy social media usage can often be symptomatic of other underlying problems such as stress, anxiety, depression, or loneliness; it can also exacerbate these problems. Do you use your smartphone as a “security blanket” to relieve feelings of anxiety, loneliness, or awkwardness in social situations? By doing so, you succeed only in cutting yourself off further from the people around you. Staring at your phone will deny you the face-to-face interactions that can help to meaningfully connect you to others, alleviate anxiety, and boost your mood. In other words, the remedy you’re choosing for your anxiety (engaging with your smartphone), is actually making your anxiety worse.

Therapy is a great way to help you combat social media addiction and manage emotional triggers. Through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we help our patients learn what distortions or negative core beliefs are driving them to seek constant connectivity. We also dive in to see why we need approval from social media platforms. Together we will work on ways to combat automatic responses that continue our dependence on social media.  Sometimes we have been out of the real world for so long, we no longer trust our communication skills. Your therapist will help you rebuild effective ways of communicating with others. And help you feel more assertive and engaged in face to face relationships.

Call Us For Support

Do you have trouble completing tasks? Or have a constant fear of missing out? Do you even try to hide or lie about the amount of time you spend on social media? Then give us a call today.  We have several therapists who specialize in addiction and OCD and can help you learn how to break your habit and regain your life. To find out more about our approach why not view a short video from one of our addiction therapists describing the process she uses.

* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.

Sources:, NY Times, Pew Research, Huffington Post

Image Credits – Adobe Stock


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