With information made available at the tip of our fingers, people have developed an urge to be constantly updated. According to reports provided by the time sharing app, Moment, people spend an average of four hours on the phone. That number should send alarm bells ringing because it is one-quarter of your waking hours dedicated to FB, Snapchat, and Instagram.
Social media addiction is not a figment of one’s imagination. It is real and harmful to say the very least. The hours spent online not only pulls you away from friends and family but also yourself.
So why does social media wield such a strong influence in our lives? Well, it is simply because it appeals to our deepest psychological instinct – the need to be social. It has broken down barriers such as geographical location, time zone, and physical presence and helped people develop relationships. It gives people social validation. And this is important for humans as it makes them feel valued and part of a community.
Apart from this, there is Dopamine and Oxytocin.
On occasions when you have posted something online and have received a like or a share, you feel a sense of triumph. You feel like people agree with your views. When this happens, the brain stimulates the production of a chemical called Dopamine which leaves you with a feeling of accomplishment. And when people leave a positive comment for your post, the brain secrets Oxytocin which are also called the “the cuddle chemical”. It makes one feel bonded and close to others.
It is because of the ability of social media to produce these effects on humans that can lead to addiction. The pleasure and reward that one receives from social media can condition the brain to crave for more. If left unchecked social media addiction can have a detrimental effect on both the body and mind.
Fear of missing out is another reason why people find it difficult to switch off. FOMO is widely being accepted as a psychological disorder that stems from feelings of insecurity. The fear of becoming irrelevant or staying out of the loop forces us to stay hooked to our laptops and smartphones.
Social media also provides a platform for our egos to thrive. It helps us to maintain a favorable image of ourselves. And every time we receive a like or a comment, it makes us feel obligated to return the favor. Thus triggering an endless cycle of like, share and comment that keeps us logged on for an extended period of time.
While a complete digital detox may not be an option for many, limiting the time one spends on social media is important. Turning off those pesky push notification will stop it from interfering with your daily activities. Keeping your electronics out of the bedroom will also help you resist the temptation of checking your feeds last thing at night and first thing in the morning.
Social media addiction is a much larger problem than one thinks. And like all addictions, realizing the problem is the first step towards healing.
Milan holds a Masters in Business Administration and has taken a self-inflicted exile from the paid workforce to look after her twin daughters. She is trying to find the answer to the most dreaded question of any stay-at-home mum,”What do you do?”