Why You’re Addicted to Social Media, and How to Kick the Excessive Habit.
You’re about to fall asleep when suddenly you hear a familiar ping a few feet away from your bed. You might roll over and try to ignore the notification waiting for you on your cell, but chances are you’ll jump out of bed to see what all the commotion is about. So why is that, that we can’t hold off until the morning to check our phones? Why do we obsessively check our social media, even when we’re supposed to be sleeping? Studies say it’s because we are addicted to our mobile phones.
I asked 15 students at Long Island University how many times they checked social media in a day. On average the students said they checked in 30 times per day, I guessed about 40 myself, although cringing at the thought. Apple says that iPhone users unlock their phones 80 times a day, so either LIU students are below average or they just severely underestimate their phone usage. The use of social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat has become the backbone of modern connection and communication because it allows us to escape from our everyday lives and become the person we would like ourselves to be. Having the opportunity to be the absolute best version of yourself online sounds great, but there are some significant drawbacks.
When it comes to mental health, excessive usage of social media can have a serious impact on us, especially as young people who engage in online activities at a much higher rate. A survey conducted in the UK concluded that people ages 16–24 spend on average 34.4 hours a week on the internet. I checked the Screen Time app on my iPhone and it revealed that in the past 7 days I have spent over 37 hours on social media apps alone. This excessive usage can damage the health and well-being of social media users. On social media sites like Instagram, followers and likes can seem more important than real life relationships. A quick Google search will reveal the many websites in which you can buy followers on Instagram. For as little as $6 USD you can get about 500 new followers. This may seem insane, but there are people on social media buying followers because of how great it makes them feel to receive the notification.
It’s no secret that social media can make us feel happy, the rush obtained from finally reaching 1,000 followers, or the thrill we get from receiving likes on a post. This releases something in our brains called dopamine. Dopamine is released when we partake in pleasurable activities like eating food, having sex, doing drugs such as cocaine, and gambling just to name a few. Dopamine feels good, so when it is released we want more of it. All of the aforementioned activities can be addictive, and so can social media.
So how can we help curb our social media addictions?
Well the first step is admitting you have a problem. Do you struggle falling asleep at night because you’re thinking about your follower count on social media? Do you sleep with your phone underneath your pillow? If you answered yes to either of those, you probably have a problem. The next step would be to distance yourself from your cell phone, literally. When you get ready for bed, try charging your phone in a different room. And when you go to class put your phone in your book bag. Another element of proximity is where apps are located on your phone. If you want to reduce usage of a particular social media app, put it in a folder on the last page of your phone. This will mix things up for your brain and force you to think about whether you really need to check that app. And finally, you should acquaint yourself with the Do Not Disturb mode on your iPhone. A simple swipe up to your control center and a click on the crescent moon button will silence all calls and notifications until turned off.
Our minds have become cluttered with likes and followers, and there is no magical way to stop this unless we actively try to slow our social media usage down. So let’s try to take these steps to give our brains a break from our digital drug addictions.