How to Break Social Media Addiction: For All Ages

Girl with social media addiction that needs mental health counseling.

Welcome to the internet era, where social media is an integral part of numerous people’s daily lives. One has to admit that social media platforms are a great help in more ways than one. For instance, you can use Facebook to stay connected with family and friends, Instagram to market your small business, and Twitter to stay updated on the latest news all over the world. Basically, it’s a gift that keeps on giving when used properly. 

Of course, social media has advantages and disadvantages. Sad to say, a small percentage of users get hooked on it. This is called social media addiction. It’s been estimated that 210 million people are possibly addicted to social media. Alarming, isn’t it? That number includes kids, teens, adults, and even seniors.

You’ve likely landed on this page for one reason: you’re trying to figure out how to break social media addiction. Whether it’s for your or a loved one’s sake, you’ve come to the right place. Keep in mind, however, that any bad habit can only be changed over time with the right approach and dedication. Consider reading this entire post as the first step in stopping social media addiction.

What Is Social Media Addiction?

This is a behavioral addiction characterized by being overly obsessive with the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. A person is said to have the condition if they have a constant, uncontrollable urge to log into or use their social media accounts. Additionally, they could be spending so much time on such apps or websites that it starts affecting their day-to-day routine.

For example, because some teens scroll through their Instagram feed for hours, they end up not doing their homework. Making TikTok videos could also take up most of someone’s day, leaving them unable to finish their household chores. Some social media addicts even neglect to take care of their physical health. For others, their mental wellness is impacted, too.

The Science behind Social Media Addiction

This type of addiction can be explained by the dopamine-inducing activities provided by social media networks. The platforms are designed to be—for the lack of a better word—addictive. They give users plenty of reasons to keep coming back for more, which is similar to the effects of alcohol on people with substance abuse issues.

To be more specific, the likes, shares, or retweets from social networking sites are meant to bring about a constant need for validation in people. Let’s say you post a photo that receives thousands of likes and hundreds of comments. Those reactions make you feel beautiful, accepted, or appreciated by your followers.

They trigger the brain’s reward centers, producing a chemical-like reaction that an addictive substance like cocaine produces. Neuroscientists have even compared social media interactions to having dopamine directly injected into one’s system. It gives a feeling of being “high,” happy, and fulfilled, satisfying a person’ desire for validation.

That’s why anyone can easily become addicted to social media. As the science behind it explains, there’s a relationship between the activities on social media sites and the brain’s reward system. This means that social media addiction is a real thing that can be experienced by anyone online.

Recognizing Social Media Addiction

People use social media because it’s undeniably a convenient way to communicate with loved ones no matter where they are. Although almost everyone with access to the internet uses social media, few are deemed addicted to it. So how will you know if you or someone you know falls under that category? Answer these six questions:

  1. Do you spend most of your time thinking about social media sites?
  2. Do you have an uncontrollable urge to use social media for longer periods?
  3. Do you resort to using social media to forget about your personal problems? 
  4. Do you often try to reduce the use of social media sites but don’t succeed?
  5. Do you become troubled or restless if you can’t check your social media accounts?
  6. Does your use of social media networks start to negatively affect your personal, academic, or professional life? 

If you or a loved one answers yes to at least three of the questions above, this may indicate social media addiction. The bottom line is that if your life revolves around social media, there’s a chance that you’re addicted to it. You might want to talk to a counselor to sort yourself out should that be the case.

Studies have shown that there’s a connection between social media use and mental health issues. It’s also been linked to low self-esteem, isolation, and unhappiness in the long run, but how so?

You could have negative emotional reactions to the things you see on websites or apps. For instance, reading bad news or even fake news might make you anxious. Seeing an influencer’s fun social life, trendy clothes, and too-good-to-be-true lifestyle can spark feelings of either envy or depression. Seeing your peers going on expensive vacations or buying beautiful homes may compel you to question your past decisions. As a result, you can get pressured to follow in their footsteps, which might harm your mental state.

Remember that not everything you see on social media is true and that comparing your life with others’ will only make you feel bad. Every person goes at their own pace. There’s no race to win, no finish line where rewards are waiting to reach. That’s why you should focus on your own life and be happy with what you have.

Excessive use of social media can cause unhappiness and dissatisfaction that, in turn, may contribute to a person’s risk of developing mental health issues like depression and anxiety. What’s more, it might lead to feeling self-conscious and the desire to have a “social media-perfect” life.

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

Social media use is linked to social anxiety as well because of the fear of missing out (FOMO). This is the fear of not being updated or missing out on a social event. For example, if you’re a teenager and your friends often talk about the latest trends on TikTok, you don’t want to be left out of the conversation.

For some, going with the latest trend is a requirement of sorts because of peer pressure. The fear of missing out is another reason a person can’t easily get away from social media. It may take a toll on their self-esteem, resulting in the compulsive use of social media sites.

Harvard University conducted a study concluding that excessive use of social media platforms has a detrimental effect on a person’s emotional and mental well-being. It can affect other aspects of their life such as personal relationships, daily tasks, academic performance, and work.

Drawbacks of Using Too Much Social Media

As they say, too much of something is never good, be it eating, drinking, or using your phone. Certain limits have to be set since anything in excess can have a negative impact on a person’s professional and personal life. The drawbacks of using social media too much are:

  • Reduced productivity: This happens when you spend too much time on a social media app and prioritize it over work and similar responsibilities. Some may also procrastinate for the same reason.
  • Lack of sleep: Certain people sacrifice getting enough rest at night just so they can keep watching videos on TikTok or YouTube. Inadequate sleep then makes them moody the next day or prevents them from concentrating at work or school.
  • Self-image issues: Juxtaposing yourself against other more popular, more affluent individuals can create feelings of depression or anxiety. You might feel deprived even though that’s far from the truth. This is a social dilemma a lot of people deal with nowadays.
  • Loneliness: Those who prefer to stay at home on their own to scroll through social media may end up lonely and isolated over time.
  • Communication problems: Using too much social media could affect a person’s interpersonal communication skills, too. This is because text- or voice-based chatting is quite different from interacting with people face-to-face.
  • Cyberbullying: Trolls and cyberbullies are present on all social media platforms. Being too interactive on such sites, especially in comment sections, can turn you into a target of cyberbullying.
Friends enjoying the use of social media that can benefit from online counseling.
Image from 123RF by rawpixel

Ways on How to Break Social Media Addiction

Here’s some good news: if you think you’re getting addicted to Twitter or Facebook, it doesn’t mean you have to take the cold turkey approach and quit everything in one fell swoop. You don’t need to abstain from social media entirely because, as mentioned before, it’s a helpful tool in the modern world. However, using it in moderation is always a good idea.

The fact that such platforms trigger a dopamine response in the brain makes you want to use them more often. With that in mind, if you’re starting to get hooked or are already hooked on social media, here are several methods you can try in order to address the issue:

Go on a Digital Cleanse

Going on a digital detox means not opening your social media accounts for a particular period. This could entail limiting yourself to checking them only once or twice a week. Alternatively, you could use them for no more than two hours a day—the duration is completely up to you.

A 2019 study regarding social media cleanse among students concluded that five days without using social media gave them a sense of serenity. This shows that going on a digital cleanse is advisable not just for social media addicts but for all internet users. Doing it every now and then may just do wonders for you. You could find yourself having additional time for productivity and more important things such as family bonding.

Put Your Device Away

Another idea is for you to create a physical distance between you and your gadget. For instance, you’ve realized that you can’t work well if your phone is beside you. Whenever you see it, all you can think about is scrolling through your Instagram feed. In that scenario, you can opt to leave the mobile in your office locker or another room if you’re working from home. Reroute any work or personal calls to your office phone to further reduce the temptation to check your mobile device.

On the other hand, if your problem is being unable to sleep well at night because of your phone, then leave it outside your bedroom. If you use it to wake up in the morning, simply buy a separate alarm clock. In case you didn’t know, the blue light produced by gadgets blocks your body’s production of melatonin, also called the sleep hormone, thus affecting your sleep cycle.

Disable Phone Notifications or Delete Apps

Have you noticed that whenever you receive a notification on your phone, you’re in a hurry to check it? This is often especially true if it’s coming from a social media platform. If you’re truly up for a digital detox, disable your phone’s notifications by changing your phone’s settings. After you’ve done this, you’ll notice how much you don’t need to pick up your mobile every five minutes.

Should removing notifications out of the picture not be enough, then be brave and delete the social media apps you have—as long as, of course, doing so won’t affect your work or school. Some schools and companies post important announcements on Facebook, so this is a case-to-case basis. But it’s still a good way to avoid reaching for your phone all the time.

Schedule Your Social Media Usage

As part of your digital cleanse, set aside a specific time for social media. For instance, try to discipline yourself and refrain from using such apps during office hours. Then, give yourself just one hour after work to check your accounts. The duration can be longer or shorter, whichever works for you.

As you continue developing this habit, there’s a chance you’ll notice a reduction in your social media cravings. At first, the withdrawal symptoms may be hard, but eventually, you’ll get used to your new circumstances. Though habit formation is admittedly not that easy, it’s 100% doable. Just keep yourself busy with other activities so you won’t be bored or idle to the point of wanting to use social media platforms to pass the time. You can go outdoors, read a book, or perhaps watch a movie.

If your kid is addicted to social media, use positive reinforcement to approach the situation. For example, let your child know that they can only use their phone after they’ve finished their homework and chores.

Set Limits and Be Consistent

If you want your family to be wiser about social media, be a role model and establish limits for yourself in using your phone. Seeing other people glued to their screens instead of interacting with one another can be contagious. The tendency is that when the ones around you are busy tapping away at their phones, you’ll be more tempted to do the same. So if you’re doing a digital cleanse, encourage your friends and loved ones to support your journey.

You can declare that the dining table is a no-cell phone zone. Or when it’s time for family bonding, everybody must leave their devices in another part of the house. See to it that you and the entire household stay consistent with these rules as that’s the key to making any habit stick.

Keep Yourself Busy

If you’re preoccupied with hobbies, you won’t think about checking your social media accounts as much. Some ideas you can go for are trying yoga in your free time, dedicating yourself to adopting a new skill such as gardening, reading a book, and learning how to cook.

You may also want to explore a skill you can monetize. Not only will you do something more worthwhile than social media scrolling, but you’ll also have a side hustle that can contribute to your weekly or monthly earnings. Also, make time for friends and family. Go out and have dinner with them, have coffee dates with your colleagues, or go on a vacation together.

Learn to Let Go of Social Media

If people from decades ago lived happy, fruitful lives without social media, why can’t we? If you can get away from it completely, you won’t be losing much. This is a good suggestion particularly for individuals who don’t have to be on such platforms for work or school. Refocus on your priorities instead. Build real-life connections so you can steer clear of the negative effects of social media.

Consider Counseling

Any form of behavioral addiction can be addressed through counseling. If you think social media has been bothering you for a while or your teenage child can’t seem to unwrap their hands from their phone, seek the help of a therapist. They can guide you in cutting social media time and figuring out methods to overcome this behavioral problem.

Even children hooked on mobile phones can benefit from mental health counseling. You could consider joining support groups and talking to the rest of your family about the issue, too.

These are the benefits of counseling for the sake of breaking social media addiction:

  • Identify illogical or negative thinking that contributes to feelings of low self-esteem or poor body image perception as a result of your condition.
  • Explore thoughts and behaviors leading a person to become addicted to social media.
  • Learn how to regain your sense of control.
  • Find realistic solutions to the problem.
  • Discover strengths and use them how to better yourself and overcome the situation.
Friends dancing on TikTok with social media addiction. These girls can benefit most from online counseling to stop social media addiction.
Image from 123RF by kryzhov

Seek Counseling Now

Social media apps have both benefits and negative consequences. Some people use social media daily yet they don’t get addicted to it since they do so in moderation. Basically, while such platforms have enticing features, you always have a choice when it comes to using them.

If, however, you find it challenging to control yourself, one of the best things to do is to get professional help. When screen time starts to affect your mental or emotional health, turn to Counseling Now. You can schedule therapy sessions on our online mental health counseling platform with ease.

As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” The first step, therefore, is to change the way you perceive your situation and accept that many possibly uncomfortable yet beneficial changes will come your way. Afterward, be open to solutions targeting the problem at hand. Get in touch with Counseling Now to learn more about how we can help you recover from social media addiction.

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