Is Social Media Addiction Real?

December 15, 2017

The introduction of social media into our lives has brought with it the problem of addiction. A social media addiction is being mentally dependent on social media, leading to negative effects or compulsions.
According to Pew Research Center 92% of teens get online daily and 71% of teens use social media websites daily. When using social media the brain’s pleasure center is activated, releasing the chemicals dopamine and oxytocin, which cause a surge of happiness, making the brain crave more.
Some do not consider it an addiction though because, unlike harmful drugs and alcohol, social media is not physically damaging, and there are no biological withdraw symptoms.
This, however, is hard to argue because other addictions, such as a gambling addiction, don’t have biological withdraw symptoms either, but are generally accepted in the psychiatric world. Instead these behavioral addictions have mental withdrawal symptoms.
Social media addiction is not currently Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is the standard handbook for the diagnoses of the mental disorders. Although, internet gaming disorder is listed in a section of the DMS that recommends further research.
While it might not yet be officially recognized as an addiction, some students can see social media’s effects in their everyday lives.
“I feel addicted to social media. Without it I feel like there is no one to talk too,” Gabrielle Rabon (11) said. “I feel like I need to constantly share my life with social media, but it makes me self-conscious.”
Others can feel the withdrawal effects of this unofficial addiction. “I am addicted to social media. I am always on my phone because I feel lonely without it; without social media, and my phone I feel irritable and short tempered,” Mallory Hoffman (10) said.
If there are negative effects and withdrawal symptoms, discussed, then why isn’t social media classified as an addiction? Professional psychologist, Dr. Jeremy Frank, who specializes in addiction, has the answer.
“Many people consider it (Social Media) to be an addictive-like disorder and many people treat it as such. It just may better be explained by an anxiety disorder or depressive disorder or impulse control disorder. Perhaps eventually we’ll find one underlying addictive tendency in individuals who will manifest in addictive behavior however that presents whether someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, sex, shopping, work, gambling etc.,” Dr. Frank said.
“I think there just hasn’t been enough time to gather adequate research on the subject. It’s hard to do really sound studies and control for all the variables. You would have to do long prospective and longitudinal research to answer these questions. You have to look at all the different people who use and rely on social media and you have to quantify and operationally define so many variables. It will be several more years before that can be done.”
On another note, even though we don’t have a real answer for whether or not social media addiction is real, Dr. Frank’s opinion on it might shed some light on social standings. “I think we are in front of screens too much and that we probably value ‘doing rather than being.’ We expect to communicate too much, too quickly and too immediately and then we get overwhelmed. We cut corners with social media and texting and then we don’t work harder for real intimacy and we have less tolerance for the real struggles that are necessary to achieving real intimacy.”
This is not to say that social media is a good thing. Social media provides communication faster than ever before in human history. It allows you to see things that you wouldn’t be able to even imagine without it.
In this modern era, social media is more important than ever before, but it should be used in moderation. Otherwise, you might feel its negative effects.
If are you feeling these negative effects, you can improve your life with a few steps recommended by Dr. Frank. First, structure and supervision, second, spirituality, and third, non-addictive substitutes for the addiction or ritualized dependencies on other “positive addictions.”
Always remember to live in the now because, as Dr. Frank says, “That may be one of the best antidotes to social media that we have today.”
Social media has its benefits and its downsides, but there needs to be more research into it before it is truly classified as an addiction.

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