Plugged in and Disconnected – The emerging social media addiction

Group of three smart phone addicted friends in a coffee shop terrace everyone with one cellphone

Recent studies show that Social media addiction is now being recognised as a real problem.

Social media use that has been seen to be more addictive than alcohol or cigarettes. The likelihood to this rise may be attributed to the availability of access and the social acceptability of its use.

The symptoms of addiction include but not limited to; chronic online activity and incessant “checking” of social media sites – increased time spent online whether it be passive (“liking” status or posts, looking constant Instagram images, “stalking” people’s profiles, or incessant refreshing of the Facebook newsfeed or active (posting status updates or pictures)

What are the downsides to using social media excessively?
Being addicted to social media can create a mindset that has increased pressure to conform to societal expectations – similar to the term ‘keeping up with the jones’ and the unhealthy competition of comparing one’s life to the other. It can create lowered self esteem for those who don’t feel that their life is as “exciting” as their peers. Another downside is it opens us up to vulnerability – eg. Criticism, judgement and rejection made famous by the “trolls” – that can result to bullying and lack of privacy.

Another pitfall is the lack of engagement with “real life” as we become more online or live our lives online.For example, people having their phones while having dinner rather than conversing with their partner or being more concerned about what people think on every aspect of what you do that actually being ‘plugged in’ with how it is making you feel.

Tips on managing social media use
1. Be clear on what you are using social media for so you can optimise the benefits of using it – eg. Work/ business purposes, networking/ making friends or staying in contact with family/ friends.

2. Inform yourself about security options – most sites have security options you can control so you can monitor who sees what you post. This will enable you to be in control of your interactions with others.

3. Use your social media in a positive way – take advantage of what information we are now able to share and also acquire online. Communicating with someone far away, or with people with the same interests have never been easier.

4. Be respectful of others and be aware of information you post – Think carefully prior to posting other people’s personal information, including posting pictures or making comments about them on your site. Stick to the rule that if you’re not willing to say it in person, then don’t do it online.

5. Restrict when you use social media – try to set times eg. Lunchbreaks only, end of the day if you find yourself spending too much time on social media. You can either opt to delete it from your phone which makes its accessibility less.