We have more opportunities to connect with others than ever before in history. The rise of social media has many benefits including greater connectivity, staying informed on current events, and an ever increasing capacity to learn about how others live around the world. However for every benefit, there is a drawback.
Adolescence, Addiction & Social Media
While there is much good that can be taken from social media, it has become a platform for teenagers to be harassed, bullied, and now more than ever, they are at the risk of becoming addicts. While some adults may not see this as a serious issue, it must be noted that Facebook and other interactive social networking sites affect the brain just like a drug. Like cocaine or narcotics, social media is linked to generating dopamine. This is because social media engages egocentric brain activities and has the power to make teens feel happy. For a short-lived time, feelings of extreme happiness can exist in response to a number of "likes" followers or comments.
Adolescence is a time of great insecurity. During this time, it's normal for girls and boys to seek validation of self and worthiness from the opposite sex and peers. However, it's not healthy to anticipate receiving these things from social media activity. Seeking continuous approval, affirmation, praise, and mentions can become an addiction. What's worse, when social media fails to meet their emotional needs, they can be left with feelings of shame, depression, anxiety, and fear after each login.
If you know someone who is spending too much time on social media, it's important to engage them in a conversation about how they feel when they do/don't use it.
Here are some questions to help identify teenagers who are addicted to social networking sites:
1. Do you feel scared you're missing something or are being excluded from others' lives when not on social media?
Fear of missing out (or FOMO) is a real thing for social media users of any age. Likened to a PTSD syndrome, FOMO can cause feelings of fear or shame. If you know someone who is isolating themselves from real life relationships, they may think connecting online is enough. Asking them if they are fearful about being excluded from an social media event or conversation may uncover their true motives for isolation.
2. Do you feel neurotic or anxious when not using social media?
Another important question to ask your loved one is if they feel anxious or neurotic when not on social networks. A constant restlessness or itching to interact online is a sign that something isn't right.
3. Are you logging in or scrolling feeds compulsively?
Constantly checking phones, computers, or tablets for social media activity can be a telltale sign of addiction. If you observe a loved one doing this often - even when in the presence of friends, family, and teachers - this is a sign of overuse.
4. Do you feel sad or feel bad about yourself after using social media?
Since social media is a platform for highlighting the best parts about ourselves and lives, it can be easy for teens to compare themselves to others. If a teenager is feeling extra gloomy or depressed after social media use, proper measures should be taken.
5. Are you angry or agitated if you can't use your phone or social media?
Another thing to observe in your loved one is if they seem agitated or angry when prohibited from social media.
These five behaviors and feelings can be indicators of an addiction to the internet or social media. Teens who are addicted may also abandon healthy eating habits, socializing, and other activities. If you or someone you love has any of the following symptoms of social media addiction, taking action now can help them regain control of their lives and happiness. Please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to speak to a treatment specialist.