Psychology Sociology

Social Media Addiction

Is Facebook the new drug of choice? Are we raising a generation of social media junkies, dropping in and out of the “real world,” always chasing that next like-button high? Is social media this generation’s heroin? Before we can answer that question, first we need to consider whether or not social media can be classified as a form of addiction in the first place.

Although it seems harmless, recent evidence suggests that social media activates the same reward centers in the brain triggered by addictions. Even though we are not consuming a chemical compound, compulsive social media use can be classified as an addiction. So if social media use can be classified as an addiction, what do we know about addiction?

A recent study on heroin use argues that everything we know about addiction is wrong. The main findings demonstrate that individuals were not abusing substances because they were chemically hooked, they are abusing substances because of a deeper underlying issue; they are lacking a sense of social belonging and connection.

This is why it it is relatively easy for a socially connected individual to stop using painkillers after an operation when compared to individuals who are dealing with deeper issues such as social isolation. But if Facebook is a social media platform, does it solve our underlying connection problem, or does it make it worse?

Facebook is a social media platform, but that does not necessarily mean it makes us more social. It can further isolate us from family, friends, loved ones, or co-works when overused. Particularity when compulsively opening Facebook, just to ask yourself why you opened it in the first place since you had just closed it a second earlier.

In addition to the mindless activity, these platforms encourage rampant voyeurism that draws us into someone else’s dreamworld, spurring us to spend ever-more time constructing our own carefully curated online identities for others to see. Although social media can isolate us through compulsive mindless voyeurism and identity-construction, this is not the full story. There are many non-addictive ways social media can be used.

Social media CAN be social. It can bring together international families grieving the loss of a loved one, connect soldiers in combat with their families back home, rekindle long-lost friendships, or as Facebook itself says, “help you connect and share with the people in your life.” Social media is social when used in ways that help build deeper connections between us.

Social media is quickly becoming one of the strongest forces that both unites and divides us. We need to be conscious of how we use these platforms so they can do the former. A “war-on-drugs” approach is not going to work. The problem is not social media itself, but rather, the way we use social media. Consider its place in your own life. Is it acting as an opiate to a deeper dissatisfaction, or is it helping you stay connected to those who mean the most to you?

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  1. Hello Steve! your article is really knowledgeable. Yes Social media sure is addictive. By the way, we’re in an information generation, where information sure is power. Which means we get information at our fingertips but it comes with its own disadvantages and communication is one of it. I’ve experienced this and I had to take weeks and months off it to be able to learn to control it. Just hope that it doesn’t take out our normal human senses since more get connected into it. Have a nice day.
    Much love,

  2. Great post. I have asked similar questions about social media myself. If you take a look at how disconnected social media can make people from their present awareness and indeed the deep neurosis that it can trigger (speaking from personal experience after losing my smartphone) there is serious cause for concern. Thanks for following my work. Looking forward to reading more of your stuff.

  3. At the beginning of this year I signed off Facebook permanently. I knew all of this but yet kept checking it. The negativity and exaggerated emotions were too much. I found I was becoming more judgemental and less loving and didn’t want that to be any part of me. Now I speak to people generally face to face or at least directly over the phone, I know fewer people but I like more of them. I feel free of the false-fronted world.

  4. Well done… I believe we need some tests we can self-administer to determine if our social media use is healthy–I’m working on that! I do believe that social media can be delusional in both a positive and negative way. One of those delusions is a belief that we have control on FB — unlike a face to face interaction which is more spontaneous and unpredictable. As this article suggests, we are simply justifying our use which, too often, is an attempt to compensate for a lack of social skills and fundamental laziness in our relationships.

  5. Great article. I think the truth lies in this statement ….. they are lacking a sense of social belonging and connection …. Social media has its place and I personally love using it to connect with my friends around the world.

  6. The part of this article exploring how social media reliance has comparisons to addiction was really interesting to read, great post. I recently did a post myself which examined how our psychological need for recognition makes us willing to engage is constant self-surveillance practises such as sharing what’s on our mind, photographs etcetera. If you’re interested its on my site here:

    Best wishes.

  7. It’s not social media life vs real life – social media is now very much a part of real life. Like all the good stuff such as chocolate, booze, fire, sex, it will add to most people’s life. For a few, it will be a demon that destroys them. It is those few we need to keep an eye on and help out. As you say the reasons that they suffer will be to do with something far deeper and far more damaging than Facebook. Facebook, the beer, the sex, the chocolate can definitely be a problem but it is not THE problem. Thanks for writing this – very thought provoking.

  8. You have a valid point there, because the more we’re into social media networking like Facebook, the more time we’d forced ourselves to stay logged on, and, eventually, we allow social media to take over other areas of our lives, and, become totally dependent upon it.

  9. I love this post 🙂 You are correct social media is addictive well, for me there are times that it’s boring to use it. Sometimes I stay away to other social media because there are a lot of negativity posts on it. It can help me communicate with friends 🙂 or can watch videos and quotes that are fun and can relate to myself.

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