Social Media Addiction

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Social Media Addiction

Melani Facundo

Written by Melani Facundo

Melani Facundo

Melani Facundo

January 5, 2021 / Read Time 5 minutes

Am I Addicted to Social Media?

Social media addiction is widespread, harmful, and largely misunderstood.

Here, we are going to take a look at the facts about social media addiction, what science tells us about these platforms, and some of the steps you can take to reduce the time you spend on social media.

  1. 1

    Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  2. 2

    Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  3. 3

    Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

Social Media Addiction Statistics

According to 2019 research by the Pew Research Center, approximately 7 in 10 people use social media.

Such platforms allow us to connect with our family and friends, share information, and consume news and entertainment.

“When Pew Research Center began tracking social media adoption in 2005, just 5% of American adults used at least one of these platforms. By 2011 that share had risen to half of all Americans, and today 72% of the public uses some type of social media.”

Here are some of the key stats:

  • Young adults still represent the largest group on social media, however, the gap has shrunk considerably as older generations continue to adopt social media habits. Today, nearly 70% of adults aged 50 to 64 use social media.

  • In terms of apps, YouTube is used by 73% of the US population, followed closely by Facebook at 69%. Apps like Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Reddit all have yet to hit 50% usage. 

  • As of July 2020, there were over 90 million monthly active users in the United States alone, according to TikTok. However, TikTok also represents the demographic divide between platform use. While TikTok experienced monumental growth in 2020, its main appeal is to a much younger audience. On the other hand, Facebook’s user demographics more closely represent the actual US population.

So, it's obvious that lots of people use social media platforms on a routine basis and that their integration into our daily lives is only accelerating, but what about addiction?

Can You Be Addicted to Social Media?

The short answer, yes you can be addicted to social media. Compulsive phone use is a real problem, but it’s not well understood.

Only in the past decade have phones transformed into the machines we recognize today that can do everything from ordering food to watching movies or having a doctor’s appointment. 

Psychologists estimate that approximately 5% to 10% of all social media users have symptoms of behavioral addiction.

According to the Addiction Center, “Social media addiction is a behavioral addiction that is characterized as being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use social media, and devoting so much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas.”

Read: Mental Health Counseling Online

Why is Social Media Addictive?

We understand that social media is addictive, but why? The truth is, social media was designed to be addictive.

Research has demonstrated that social media notifications light up the same neurons in our brain as slot machines and cocaine.

Social media platforms exploit short-term, dopamine driven feedback loops that give you a short hit of satisfaction and keep you coming back for more.

Dopamine is a chemical produced by our brains that plays a critical role in motivating behavior. It is released when we exercise, eat food, or have social interactions.

In an evolutionary context, it rewards us for beneficial behaviors and motivates us to repeat them.

How Does Social Media Make Money?

In fact, social media has tapped into our biological nature so intently that it relies on our behavioral patterns to thrive.

Social media is free, but the companies that created and operate these platforms are some of the wealthiest in the world. How?

On social media, you are the product. On these platforms, every interaction, every swipe, and every post is intimately tracked.

Data from our personal usage is accumulated and sold to companies who use it to tailor their advertisements to your interests.

As such, the goal of any social media platform is to keep you scrolling as long as possible so you can see as many ads as possible.

Why Can't I Get Off of Social Media?

There are some pretty creative ways social media platforms keep you glued to your screen.

Facebook has expanded their notification criteria so that you might consider opening the app more frequently when you feel that buzz in your pocket.

Likewise, Instagram abandoned the chronological feed, making it nearly impossible to run out of new content to see.

To track your usage habits, technology companies rely on incredibly powerful algorithms that monitor your behavioral data and curate your experience.

This practice is commonly referred to as “surveillance capitalism,” and it involves using your data to predict your future behavior and mitigate uncertainty.

The competitive dynamics of surveillance capitalism have created powerful economic imperatives that are driving firms to produce better and better behavioral-prediction products.

As such, some argue that social media algorithms are no longer reacting to your behavior, but actively shaping it.

How to Recognize Social Media Addiction

Recognizing social media addiction may be harder than it seems.

Many of us are aware that we want to spend less time on our phones, but the time just slips away each day. One of the best tools to track your phone and app usage is on the phone itself.

On most smartphones today, you can check your screen time, which breaks down daily usage and how much time you spend on individual apps.

Take a look yourself and see if the results surprise you.

Another simple way to recognize social media addiction is to put your phone away.

Do you feel anxious without it? It’s natural to want your phone, but this technique can be revealing for those who realize they simply cannot go without it for extended periods of time.

Media Addiction Solutions

To reduce social media use, try some of these tips to reduce social media use:

  • Keep your phone out of sight when you’re working

  • Use apps that help you limit social media use or screen time

  • Set aside time during the day to spend on a screen-free hobby

  • Enjoy a phone-free dinner

  • Leave the phone out of the bedroom

  • Charge your phone overnight across the room (buy an alarm clock if need to)

  • Only follow accounts that add value to your well-being

  • Change your notification settings

  • Track your screen time and set goals to reduce it

Social Media and Mental Health

Research has consistently demonstrated that there is a link between social media use, low self-esteem, and negative mental health.

Social media platforms have their benefits, however, using them too frequently can make people feel isolated, powerless, and unhappy. 

When we scroll through social media, we compare ourselves to the highlight reel of people’s lives around us. Such comparisons lead to self-consciousness and unrealistic expectations which often manifest into a social anxiety disorder or even depression.

  1. 1

    Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  2. 2

    Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  3. 3

    Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

How PlushCare Can Help With Social Media Addiction

Social media isn’t going anywhere so long as the advertisement profit model works, so it’s up to us to recognize if and when we need help.

Smartphones serve as a window into a digital world and although they have brought us new problems, they also offer potential solutions.

With online platforms like PlushCare, you can receive the help you need right from your phone or laptop.

With PlushCare, you can easily book a virtual appointment with one of our licensed therapists. If you find yourself doom scrolling online, struggling with anxiety as you wade through feeds, or have trouble putting your phone away to go to bed, our therapists are here to help. Additionally, our services extend to providing options for antidepressant prescription online if deemed necessary during your therapeutic journey.

Read More About Social Media Addiction


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