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Why is Social Media so Addictive?

By Emily Carruthers

Social media undoubtedly has become an integral part of our daily lives. It has been over the past decades and is growing rapidly with more users every day. Social media are web-based online tools that enable people to discover and learn inexhaustible ranges of information, share ideas, interact with people and organizations and so much more. Some examples of social media platforms are Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, WhatsApp and Snapchat.


It has impacted how people live their lives, marketing, job opportunities, communication, relationships and lots more. On the other hand, social media is not all rays of sunshine, it can cause a lot of negative impacts which you have to be careful with when surfing through the web. We sometimes ask ourselves why social media is so addicting and why it is so hard to get off the app?


Social media affects the mind in physical but also psychological ways. According to a new study by Harvard University, self-disclosure on social networking sites lights up the same part of the brain that also ignites when taking an addictive substance. Gazing through social media seems like a mindless and relaxing way to use your time when in reality it has a tremendous effect on your brain. Whenever you log onto your favorite apps, dopamine signals increase in your brain, where the neurotransmitters associate these activities with pleasure. 


This means, when you experience dopamine after using social media, the brain identifies this activity as a rewarding one and you should repeat it. These effects can happen when you post something, get positive feedback, watch something etc. The positive feelings that you experience on the internet are only temporary. Thus, as the feel-good dopamine wears off, you crave more so you go back to the source (in this case it is social media) for more enjoyment. 


Having an addiction to social media does not mean it affects everyone in the same way, but typically there are many negative effects to the overuse of social media. These negative impacts can be:

  • Low self-esteem: This may be prompted by incorrect perceptions of influencers having ‘better’ lives than you.
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Increased isolation and loneliness
  • More reliance on social media as a way to cope with problems
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, especially if you use social media right before bedtime
  • Ignoring the relationships in your “real” life
  • Reduced ability to empathize with others
  • Poor grades or work performance

Now, not everyone feels this way and many are experts at balancing their social media usage and other importances in their life. But there are many who struggle which is completely normal. It is hard to get off the phone to the extent where you feel hopeless in breaking the repetitive cycle of social media, but there are ways to help to overcome this addiction and decrease the screen time on social media. Here are some helpful tips you can take, some big, some small, which you can use if you feel it can help you. 

  • Delete your social media apps from your smartphone. While you can still access them from your personal computer, keeping them off your phone may help decrease the amount of time spent on social media overall.
  • Turn off your personal phone during work, as well as during school, meals, and recreational activities. You can also adjust the setting on each social media app so you can turn off certain notifications.
  • Set aside a certain amount of time dedicated to social media per day. Turn on a timer to help keep you accountable.
  • Leave your phone, tablet, and computer out of your bedroom.
  • Take up a new hobby that’s not technology-related. Examples include sports, art, cooking classes and more.
  • Make it a point to see your friends and family in person when possible.