Unliking Social Media Addiction
Posted on by Sean Williamson
For most of us social media is nothing more than a harmless time waster. We share a few posts, get a few likes, and get on with our day. But increasing reports are being heard about this sort of activity turning into a genuine obsession, and a dangerous addiction.
Studies have surfaced showing clear links between validation on social media, in the form of likes or shares, and brain activity similar to eating chocolate. On a small scale this is completely normal, and to be expected. But when taken too far, the similarities to more serious addictions are astonishing.
In other words; social media addiction is a very real problem in today’s digitally driven world. Many people are spending far too much time on Facebook or Instagram when they could be having fun doing other things online; like playing casino games, learning fun new facts or simply engaging with others in a more meaningful way.
A study by the UCLA Brain Mapping Centre closely watched a group of 32 teenagers. Aged 13 -18, the teenagers all had an interest in social media, including the usual Instagram and Facebook accounts.
Over the course of the average day these teenagers not only checked their social media an alarming amount, but also showed clear signs of brain activity spikes when receiving likes or shares.
Interestingly, the attention did not even have to come from friends or family. A like from a complete stranger was enough to get their brains ticking, pumping out positive feedback.
It isn’t difficult to see why many teenagers get obsessive about social media, and specifically the positive feedback given by likes. It’s little wonder that social media sites are flooded by selfies, more often than not featuring teenagers.
The question is; why do teenagers, and all of us for that matter, need this social media attention?
Validation And Attention Seeking
The simple answer to the question is this; everyone needs a bit of attention and validation. The trick is that since the world has become more digital than ever, that this validation is increasingly sought after via social media, as opposed to social interactions with groups of friends. It need not be said that the younger generations are most susceptible, and that when this combination gets out of control the result is a predictable one; social media addiction from a young age.
The reality of this potential addiction was made clearer than ever by the Thailand Department of Mental Health, who recently put out a blanket warning to parents. The warning specified, in no uncertain terms, that teenage addiction to social media is a real risk, and should be managed.
Our Needy Online Persona
According to the Ford 2014 consumer trend report, 62% of adults admitted that they felt higher self-esteem, and a generally uplifted mood, upon receiving social media validation. It’s an enormous amount, and proof that few are beyond the positive feedback loop of social media.
Tom Gara, a Wall Street Journal contributor, very plainly stated that he felt his online persona was even needier than his actual persona. This candid statement just about says it all.
So what can the average person do to ensure that they don’t let social media become a real addiction?
Social media need only be treated as the online gimmick it is, experts say; a fun, interesting way to keep up with friends, and share interests. We might all consider simply giving social media less of our attention, and perhaps instead use our online time listening to music, or reading up on interesting articles instead. Anything but feeding our social media persona.
Social media certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so perhaps it’s time we all started simply switching off our social media accounts for awhile. You’ll probably soon find you have time for a whole lot of other activities, and that checking your latest post for likes becomes less and less exciting as you find other ways to validate yourself.