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Addiction Awareness Behavior Cognitive

Signs of Social Media Addiction and Their Impact on Well-Being

1 month, 1 week ago

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Posted on Jun 11, 2024, 12 p.m.

According to Statista, there were an estimated 4.89 billion social media users worldwide in 2023, which represents approximately half of the world's population. This staggering number can only keep growing. From kids to boomers, social media has become an integral part of daily life for many, offering connection, entertainment, and information at our fingertips. 

However, behind the scrolling feeds and endless likes lies a phenomenon with potentially serious consequences: social media addiction. As this digital dependency permeates society, its impact on mental and physical health is coming under increasing scrutiny.

Let’s dive into the signs of social media addiction and explore its profound effects on well-being.

Noticeable Signs of Social Media Addiction

As virtual connections replace genuine interactions and screen time eclipses real-world activities, the detrimental effects of this digital dependency are becoming impossible to ignore. 

Recognizing the noticeable signs of social media addiction is the first step towards reclaiming control over one's digital habits and prioritizing mental well-being in an age of constant connectivity.

Excessive Time Spent Online

One of the primary indicators of social media addiction is spending an excessive amount of time scrolling through feeds, liking posts, and engaging in online activities. Research from GWI reveals that the “typical” social media user now spends 2 hours and 23 minutes per day using social platforms.

Individuals may find themselves glued to their screens for hours on end, neglecting responsibilities, relationships, and self-care in favor of virtual interactions. Whether it's mindlessly refreshing timelines or losing track of time while engrossed in online debates, an inability to moderate online usage can signal a problematic reliance on social media.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Similar to other forms of addiction, withdrawal symptoms can manifest when individuals are separated from social media. These symptoms may include feelings of anxiety, restlessness, irritability, or even depression when unable to access social networking platforms. 

A high prevalence of self-reported social media addiction was found in a study and was significantly correlated with self-reported feelings of isolation.

Constantly checking for notifications, experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out), or feeling the urge to constantly refresh feeds are common signs of withdrawal. Such behaviors highlight a dependence on social media for validation, connection, or distraction, indicating an addictive relationship with these online platforms.

Individuals may also prioritize scrolling through feeds or participating in virtual interactions over essential tasks such as social interactions, work, school, or household chores. This withdrawal from social interactions in the physical world in favor of online relationships can further exacerbate feelings of isolation and detachment from reality.

In severe cases, social media addiction can contribute to the breakdown of relationships and interpersonal conflicts.

Disrupted Sleep Patterns

Excessive screen time before bedtime, often spent scrolling through social media feeds, can interfere with the body's natural circadian rhythm, which can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. A study reveals that social media use has been linked to poor sleep outcomes among university students in the cyber age.

The blue light emitted by screens can suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles, further exacerbating sleep disturbances. The emotional stimulation from social media interactions right before bedtime can also contribute to racing thoughts and increased arousal, making it challenging to relax and unwind. 

Physical Health Effects

As individuals with social media addiction prioritize screen time over preparing and eating nutritious meals, it leads to poor dietary habits. Sitting and staring at screens can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, contributing to a range of health issues such as obesity, cardiovascular problems, and muscular-skeletal disorders. 

Social Media Impacts on Mental Health

A number of studies have been conducted on the impacts of social media, and it has been indicated that the prolonged use of social media platforms has been linked to increased levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. 

Constant comparison to others, exposure to cyberbullying, and the pressure to present a curated image of oneself online can take a toll on mental well-being.

Increased Risk of Anxiety and Depression

Social media tempts users by posting carefully curated images and capturing idealized lifestyles, which can foster feelings of inadequacy, comparison, and self-doubt among users. The pressure to present a flawless image online and the fear of missing out (FOMO) on exciting events or experiences portrayed by others can exacerbate feelings of anxiety. 

More than 80% of the total participants in a study reported frequent exposure to social networks. The results revealed that 48.3% of the participants were found to have depression, 22.6% suffered from anxiety, and 19.4% had both.

Negative Body Image and Low Self-Esteem

Social media platforms often promote unrealistic beauty standards through filtered images and edited photos, leading individuals to compare themselves unfavorably to these unattainable ideals. 

Constant exposure to idealized body types can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction with one's appearance and a distorted perception of self-worth based on physical attributes. 

A study conducted with the sample of the study consisted of 204 adolescents, 67 (32.8%) girls and 137 (67.2%) boys, with a mean age of 15.90 ± 1.20 years, who were high school students. The result revealed that there is a negative correlation between self-esteem and social media addiction levels in adolescents.

This phenomenon has been linked to the development of eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and a persistent sense of inadequacy.

Impaired Concentration and Cognitive Function

The endless barrage of notifications, updates, and scrolling feeds can lead to a phenomenon known as "digital distraction," where individuals struggle to maintain focus on tasks or engage in deep, sustained thought. 

This constant multitasking and divided attention can hinder productivity, learning, and information retention, ultimately affecting academic and professional performance. 

Moreover, studies have shown that heavy social media use may alter brain structure and function, particularly in areas associated with attention, memory, and decision-making. Over time, these cognitive effects can compound, leading to difficulties in processing information, making decisions, and maintaining mental clarity.

Distorted Perception of Reality

Social media platforms often showcase the highlight reels of people's lives, presenting curated versions of reality that may be embellished or exaggerated. These idealized images and narratives can lead individuals to develop unrealistic expectations about life, relationships, and success. 

This phenomenon, known as the "social media illusion," can contribute to feelings of inadequacy, envy, and disillusionment as individuals compare their own lives to the seemingly perfect lives depicted online. 

Also, the prevalence of fake news, misinformation, and filter bubbles on social media can further blur the lines between fact and fiction– which can lead to confusion and skepticism about what is real.

This article was written for WHN by Andre Oentoro who is the CEO of VideosID, an Indonesia animation studio company.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

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