Social media addiction has become a growing issue in our culture, negatively impacting the lives of people daily. Today everyone has immediate access to the outside world through smart phones, tablets, and computers. Social media use has risen from 6% in 2005 to over 69% in 2011 (Pew Research Center.) Orlando therapists are starting to see clients regularly that are reporting negative reasons for social media use and the negative effects of constant scrolling. So how has social media use changed your life? Have you found yourself emotionally impacted by your social media use or by things you have discovered on social media forums? Could you be suffering from a social media addiction?
We all know how social media use can serve as a great distraction in waiting rooms. Time definitely seems to fly by during that endless scrolling. Most people can moderate their social media use quite well. They might engage in social media as a way of staying in touch with people, posting photos in lieu of the long forgotten “photo albums,” or by finding inspiration, announcing special events, or staying abreast of recent news.
Facebook has even become a reminder of events from the past which, for many people, serves as a convenient way to revisit memories without having to dust off album covers that take up extra storage space.
But what happens when social media use becomes a distraction for real life? What happens when a person begins to use social media as a way to seek approval or validation? What happens when social media use is motivated by negative reasons and becomes a way of dealing with life without actually dealing with it?
When people use social media as a way to feel better about themselves it can actually cause more harm than good. The positive (or negative) feedback they get from posts actually actually elicits a chemical reaction in their brain. Dopamine is released everytime you receive a text, a comment, or some response on social media. Dopamine makes you feel good so it’s no wonder why people keep coming back for more. But people who continue to seek this type of feedback could actually be masking a greater issue. They might be getting stuck in a false state of reality, inhibiting growth, stunting their development, and not allowing for personal accountability.
People who struggle with poor self esteem often seek approval or validation from external sources.
Having relationships that do not allow for good communication or healthy support can make a person more vulnerable to seeking false connections through social media.
People who suffer from anxiety around others often like the anonymity they gain from being behind a screen.
Feeling lonely or alone can make someone reach out for attention on social media forums.
Depression or low mood can contribute to someone seeking feedback online or getting validation through responses on posts.
Someone who has trust issues might find the intangible relationships on social media easier to manage, with less emotional risk.
Many personality disorders crave attention and social media is the fastest, most immediate way to gain that attention.
Some people love to have control. Social media is just another forum where people control what others see about them, hear about them, and think about what goes on in their lives. It makes them feel in control when they have a captive audience.
Here’s a good example to consider. Have you ever encountered someone on a social media forum who posts, “I’m not usually one to air dirty laundry on social media, but……..” and then proceeds to air away? What do you think is behind that post? What a person posts on social media, either positive or negative, usually has an ulterior motive. It might appear on the surface to be an innocent post, but the reality is that there could be many underlying needs looking to be met. The other issue lies heavily in that anything a person posts on social media is always just a perceived truth. By gaining support for their post and feedback on their issue, they could be perpetuating a false reality or minimizing their personal accountability.
The evidence suggests that social media use can quickly become addiction due to the impact it has on the reward pathways in the brain. Anyone who is suffering from mental health issues is more susceptible to this addiction and should be mindful of their social media use. Research indicates that when a person uses social media to post personal statements like the example given, that they may be seeking a “fix” similar to the high a person feels when using cocaine. They may actually be self-medicating or avoiding having to deal with or face the actual truths in their circumstances.
Pay attention to messages you send or post and ask yourself what your motivation is before making a public announcement.
Find activities that support a positive mind set, for example meditation, or journaling.
Reach out to friends and make an effort to meet in person or talk on the phone.
Find help for your mental health, from people who care and are credible sources of support.
To read more, please visit Orlando Thrive Therapy at our web site. There are free advice articles which will give you more information on individual mental health issues, couples issues, anxiety, depression and many other mental health subjects.
Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.