Since social media is available 24/7 and is constantly updating, the addictive aspect stems from fear of missing out (FOMO). Our brains are wired for collaboration and we are fully aware when others are doing something that excludes us triggering primitive survival responses. Constantly checking social media allows us to meet this primal need by becoming involved in the lives of others ensuring we are never left out.
Social media is also addictive given the validation factor. Getting “likes” on pictures or “follows” on news feeds affirms our existence similar to someone smiling at you in real life. Quite simply, being acknowledged makes us feel good. Due to the constant availability of social media this validation is available at our fingertips.
Social media however can have a negative impact on self-esteem. It allows us is to hide behind screens and present the lives we want others to think we have. Most people would not post unflattering photos of themselves or share about fights with their partners. We often see pictures about holidays, fun activities and photoshopped bodies. This leads to comparisons which inevitably can affect your self-esteem. It’s all too easy to think “why are they so happy when I’m struggling?” The truth is, we don’t know what is truly going on with people’s lives.
Some signs social media is negatively impacting your life:
- Going online is your first priority in which you check it as soon as you wake up, many times a day and it’s the last thing you look at before bed.
- Your mood is affected by what you see on social media. If you start feeling sad/depressed/angry/jealous by what you see online this is a sign your self-esteem is being impacted.
- You feel a sense of happiness when things go wrong for others. For example, if a friend’s status changes from “in a relationship” to “single” and you find yourself elated, you’re really validating your own unhappiness by comparing yourself to others.
- You measure your success by others’ responses or reactions. If you find yourself frustrated when your posts are not getting enough “likes” or comments, it is a sign of low self-esteem connected to social media.
How do you break social media addiction?
- Recognise your triggers for turning to social media. Is it when you’re lonely or bored? If you are struggling with depression, stress, or anxiety, social media may be a way to self-soothe moods. Instead, find healthier ways of managing your moods, such as practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
- It is necessary to take a break from social media if you find yourself getting upset every time you log-on, find yourself writing rude comments or thinking negative thoughts, or are getting happiness in other’s pain.
- Turn off your phone and computer for a night and enjoy doing something free from technology such as enjoying a nice meal, meditating or taking a warm bath. After taking the first step to disconnect, begin thinking about taking a longer break and getting back into real life.
- If cutting out social media seems too difficult, turn off all notifications so you aren’t getting alerts when new items are posted and schedule times in which you check social media (such as only during your lunch break).
- Find alternative ways of connecting to others such as using phone calls instead of text messaging, going out without taking selfies, and getting out with friends instead of being on Facebook.
There are a lot of positives about using social media.But, used the wrong way, social media can often tap into our insecurities. And we don’t want this to interfere with our lives.
Kimberly Hershenson began her career as a professional ballerina. She is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She received her Juris Doctorate from Pace Law School and her Master of Laws in Intellectual Property from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Kimberly ultimately decided to make a career change and is a summa cum laude graduate from Columbia University’s School of Social Work. She is currently a therapist at a group practice in Manhattan, Revitalife Therapy, specialising in eating disorders, addiction, motherhood issues (pregnancy, infertility, miscarriage, parenting), anxiety and depression.
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