The likes and hearts and retweets feel good, don't they?
It's a thrill when somebody comments how nice you look or how envious they are of a meal, isn't it?
Do you check your social media first thing in the morning and last thing at night? Do you sneak glances at mealtimes, work, and even driving?
Maybe your feeling like life isn't living up to what you're posting online?
Maybe you're starting to recognize you have an addiction to the social media…
What Is Social Media Addiction?
There's a big difference between enjoying social media and a social media addiction.
If you just enjoy social media, you engage with it, but you don't feel a loss if you don't.
If you're addicted, it's something you feel you cannot live without. The official definition says it's "A psychological or behavioral dependence on social media platforms can result in significant impairment in an individual's function in various life domains over a prolonged period."
Like any real addiction, social media addiction changes your brain and body.
How This Addiction Hurts Your Mental Health
Every time you are on social media and see something positive, like a retweet or a like, your brain gives you a little shot of dopamine, the feel-good hormone.
Occasionally, that's fine. But, after a while, you start relying on social media to give you that rush of dopamine. After a while, it takes more and more to get the same rush. And, without it, you can feel nervous, shaky, depressed… you can go into withdrawal.
But, that's not all the changes social media can make to you. Many things found on social media are negative. Seeing things such as wildfires, crimes, injuries to other people, social unrest, and anything disturbing increases the cortisol in your body. Cortisol is your stress hormone, and it can raise your blood pressure, encourage weight gain, and lead you to depression.
One of these other changes researchers found is changes in communication patterns. Especially among younger people, the ability to interact with other people is being hampered.
Teachers in public schools and colleges are finding it much more challenging to get students to give presentations or speak publicly. Workforces are finding it more and more difficult to engage with younger employees on a personal basis rather than by email or text.
Some people are afraid of communicating outside of the regulated world of social media.
Face-to-face conversation isn't happening.
Yet, one of the things scaring some researchers is the change in language and comprehension abilities. Reading levels are declining. Younger people are less and less able to read longer stories and bigger books. With that, vocabulary comprehension diminishes. Unusual words, spelling, and the use of synonyms fade with simplified emoji texts.
Since reading and comprehension are two levels of determining mental fortitude, emotional stability, and mental acuity, doctors have concerns over whether social media addiction might increase dementia and Alzheimer's in the next 20 to 50 years.
They already know it's leading to more back problems and higher rates of cardiovascular disease and obesity.
How To Break Social Media Addiction
Whether you use social media occasionally or have a full-blown addiction, removing yourself from social media will benefit your health.
The first decision you have to make is the decision to break the habit.
We can tell you that breaking the habit is hard.
You have two choices: cold turkey for step-by-step.
If you choose to completely cut social media out of your life, we recommend informing your friends and family of your choice to help you stick with it and avoid concerning them with your sudden absence. This is a drastic change, which could alarm some people.
Remove all the apps and bookmarks to the social media sites. Then, choose something constructive and useful to replace it. This could be reading a book, meditating, speaking with friends on the phone, or learning a new skill. Something needs to replace the time you dedicated to social media to help you avoid the temptation to go back.
Then, it's time to wait out the withdrawal.
If you choose to reduce your social media addiction step-by-step, we highly recommend beginning at night. Avoid social media one hour before bedtime and do not check it overnight. This will help you get better sleep and improve your mental fortitude for the next day.
Then, you can start cutting back in the morning, at work, and the other places where it might be more inappropriate. Finally, you can choose to delay your post, which will help protect your privacy and safety.
Choosing to get rid of a social media addiction benefits your mental and physical health. It can make you happier and more stable overall and help avoid some of the physical health problems that come with excessive use of any electronic media.