The phrase “social media addiction” is one that is often thrown around without much weight or merit —and normally serves as a synonym for “I have a lot of great things to say” or, “hey look what I’m doing.”
And while we’re all guilty at times of oversharing on the internet, there has to be a point where we take a step back, sip in a little bit of self-awareness, and ask ourselves if being an over-excessive user could potentially put us on a path to a larger mental health risk.
With Facebook launching in 2004, and other major social networks following closely, we need to give ourselves credit where credit is due. We’re a generation of guinea pigs, testing out the fresh waters of social media. We’ve seen the rise, a la Chrissy Teigen, the Queen of Twitter, and the horrible falls *cough, Logan Paul* of users across social media.
Hate this macbook relationship. "When do you want to update?" "Later" "later today or later tomorrow?" Oh my god just fucking LATER
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) January 22, 2016
As these platforms approach their 10 and 15–year anniversaries, we’re beginning to see social media adoption at a much younger age, along with the after effects of using social media over a prolonged period of time. There’s more context and evidence around the growing research on social media addiction. Claiming “social media addiction” as a humble brag is quickly being redirected towards a heavier mental health conversation.
Social Enhancement and Social Compensation
Users with extreme social media habits (we all know a few) are online for either social enhancement or social compensation. Either way, they are on social media for the purpose of getting attention from others. They’re the people who sit next to us, paying half attention with eyes glued to the phone. And they’re the same people who fill our social feeds with:
- Constant, daily life updates
- Numerous selfies and snaps, after many post-and-delete attempts
- Passive aggressive shares: blog posts, memes, or my personal favorite, zodiac results
- Shameless interactions (secretly, or not) with past love interests and friends
Is this healthy? Like, at all?
Users become so engrossed that they begin neglecting other aspects of their off-screen lives. A variety of studies conducted find that the same users often suffer from extreme mood shifts and go through a serious amount of withdrawal when their attention is required away from their social feeds.
Was this really vital information for you to learn?
And while it’s not yet formalized and confirmed if social media has changed or is changing human behavior, here’s what is clear: within the last decade, social platforms have sparked changes in the way people communicate and interact with one another.
So what do we do now?
We take a step back. Instead of hastily going “off the grid” or cleansing yourself of social media for 30 days, consider why you’re on social networks in the first place. Is it for connecting with friends from back home? Is it for the fear of missing out? Or do you find yourself online, comparing yourself to others through overly filtered simulations of reality?
Drop the “new year, new me” attitude with a promise to cut back on social media—while ironically posting that exact statement on social media—and instead figure out the content and context of your social media use. Make sure it’s for the right reasons and most importantly, within reason.