Have you ever thought about the number of times you check your social media accounts? Is it a few times a week or many times a day? Social media statistics from 2019 shows that there are 3.2 billion social media users worldwide, and this number is only growing. That equates to about 42% of the current population.
Here’s a question for all of us…how much time do we spend on our social media accounts each day? Are they the first thing we check in the morning and the last thing we check at night? I, for one, am guilty! The social media statistics uncover that an average of 2 hours and 22 minutes are spent per day per person on social networks and messaging. The surveys show that 27% of children who spend three or more hours a day online show symptoms of ill mental health. Whether we are at home, at work, or even in school, we seem to spend countless hours on at least one social media platform. Sometimes, when we find one boring, we move to the next. Admit it…we’ve all done it!
What makes us so addicted?: I think, speaking on behalf of the majority, we all urge to keep ourselves updated about everything around us through social networks. Communications and interactions allow us to stay connected with others which seems unavoidable and universal. Basically, social validation is an important part of being human. It’s so tempting to check for likes, frequently uploading pictures on Instagram or a twitter ‘ favorite’ is a social signal which makes us feel satisfied. As users, we always wait for such gestures and this gives us immense pleasure.
Social media is the perfect platform to showcase our Ego! We live in a ‘Me’ society with an obsession with the ‘self’ that drives us to update our status and tag ourselves in those photos in which we look good. Why are we even showcasing the world that we are living a perfect life while each of us is facing different battles each day?
Many of us might have heard of the slang “Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)” which is a large driver of social network use for those aged thirty and under. It is weird to know that 67% of users say that they are afraid that they’ll “miss something.” Some researchers say that social media has the same effects as substances like alcohol and drugs. “Having addicted to social networks is the same as habit-forming as crack cocaine”. Studies suggest that our brains experience pleasure from our social media activity. But all this psychological talk is really explaining how social media plays with our minds so effectively that it is dragging us into an “Addiction”.
Keeping updated versus addiction: I think there’s no harm in checking our accounts, but there appears to be a fine line between keeping updated and addiction. We must check upon our social media habits. Symptoms like feeling the urge to return to your account immediately after coming away, irregular sleeping patterns or being sleep-deprived, impact on health, dedicating excessive amounts of time to social media alone on a daily basis, loosing concentration levels or becoming distracted from daily life, an increase in anxiety or depression levels all points out to social media addiction. According to Therapist Justine Froelker “when you are not meeting the obligations of your everyday life, you enter the boundaries of an unhealthy addiction”.
“Social media is deteriorating our mental health”- Research has shown that there is an undeniable link between social media use, negative mental health, and low self-esteem. We all know how social media is beneficial to us as it has a wider reach and covers everything we are looking for. However, if we aren’t using it in the correct manner it will impact our health adversely. Its frequent use may make people increasingly unhappy and isolated. While scrolling through the content, people may see a post by an individual that has a great job, excellent partner, or beautiful home and feel happy or inspired by this person. Others, however, may see these pictures and feel jealous, depressed, or even feel suicidal due to the fact that their own life is not as “perfect” as those that they see on Facebook or Instagram. Social media facilitates an environment in which people are comparing their realistic offline selves to the flawless, filtered, and edited online versions of others, which can be detrimental to mental well-being and self-perception.
Treatment is necessary for the number of individuals that are genuinely addicted to social media use. However, the goal of treatment for this type of addiction (unlike many other addictions) should be controlled use rather than total abstinence, as it is not feasible to stop someone from using devices that have Internet access (i.e., their smartphone). The most successful type of treatment for online addictions appears to be cognitive behavioral therapy (which is a talk therapy designed to help people change the way they think and behave). Setting limits during the day where there is self-imposed non-screen time (such as during meal times) and leaving your smartphone in a separate room from where you sleep (just so you don’t get the urge to check social media before bedtime, during the night, and when you wake up). Some steps such as the banning of smartphone use while driving is also righteous. Due to the loss of productivity in both the workplace and educational settings, employers, schools, and colleges need policies in place to ensure that individuals are more focused on what they should be doing. Many schools ban the use of smartphones in the classroom. Prohibition of its use in the workplace will be more justified if it is practical to do so. It was also heard that some restaurants are now providing discounts on food bills if customers refrain from using their smartphones during their meal. These positive reinforcement strategies may well be the way forward in trying to decrease time spent on smartphones checking social media.
In this hi-tech, screen-filled modern world, social media is all-pervasive. It is the new God. We are now it’s slaves. It seems like no day could pass without being active on social platforms. It has become one of our main chores. Watching this alarming increase in social media usage and people becoming addicted to it, there is no such end which could be seen yet. It is high time we should leave this virtual world and give more importance to the world outside our mobile phones!