Social Media Addiction: Statistics, Symptoms and Treatment

Social Media Addiction is a growing epidemic.  But is it really as concerning as it seems? In fact, is it even an actual concern? 

Well, before I get to that, tell me, do you also feel trapped in a never-ending cycle of scrolling through your feeds? Is there a constant urge to just take a quick look? Check the updates, likes, and comments, even when you know you should be doing something else?!

Sounds familiar? 

You are not alone! We have all been there, experiencing the relentless pull of social media. And that’s exactly the challenge we will be tackling today. 

So, without further ado, let’s understand all we need to know about Social Media Addiction: Statistics, Symptoms, and Treatment!

What is Social Media Addiction?

social media addiction

Ever felt like your phone has a magnetic pull? Does it feel like a pull, drawing you into the endless abyss of social media? 

I have. (Now, it may seem hard to believe a professional clinical counselor falling into the grip of social media addiction. But I have been there!)

So, what is social media addiction? 

Basically, social media addiction is the constant urge to use social media platforms despite the consequences. 

It’s like being hooked on something, unable to resist despite knowing its harmful effects. In fact, just like how some people can’t stop themselves from drinking or using drugs, some of us feel a constant urge to check our social media accounts.

Now, while it’s not officially classified as an addiction yet, it’s widely acknowledged as a behavioral addiction.

Did you know? Presently, social media addiction is not officially classified as an addiction. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has listed it as a ‘condition for further study‘.

Social media addiction is all about that dopamine rush you get from likes, comments, and scrolling through endless posts. It’s like craving a high, but instead of reaching for a bottle or a pill, you are reaching for your phone. 

Moreover, it’s important to understand that social media addiction isn’t just about spending too much time online. It’s about the negative impact it has on various aspects of life. From strained relationships to decreased productivity, social media addiction impacts our mental, emotional as well as physical well-being. 

Now, not everyone using social media will develop an addiction. No, I am not saying that. But with its increasing popularity and presence in our lives, falling for addiction is very easy– it’s just one notification away!

So, sit back and ask yourself: Am I in control, or is social media controlling me? 

And if you find yourself falling in the loop of addiction, buckle up, my friend; it’s time to BREAK FREE!

Why is Social Media Addictive?

Have you ever wondered why social media is so addictive?

Well, when I was in the loop, I wondered why. In fact, as the workings of the human brain have always fascinated me, I went for some deep research. 

And guess what? It’s all about the response of our brain to digital stimuli!

Let me explain.

What happens is our brains have an amazing reward system. It’s like a little chemical factory that produces feel-good hormones whenever we experience something exciting or pleasurable. 

Now, one of these hormones is dopamine. And dopamine is responsible for that euphoric rush we feel when we get positive feedback, like scrolling through relatable memes and videos or getting many likes on a post.

happiness increases & decrease due to dopamine

So, every time we scroll through our feed or post something, our brain releases dopamine, giving us that feel-good sensation. It’s like a little reward for your brain, telling it that social media is something worth doing again and again. 

But here’s the catch: the more we use social media, the more our brain gets used to it, and the more it craves that dopamine hit.

It leads to a deep-rooted dependency!  That is, with time, our brains become dependent on social media for even small mental boosts. 

And this is how a general time pass becomes a compulsive habit! Before we know it, we find ourselves depending on social media for a quick fix for stress, loneliness, or boredom. However, this just makes things worse, affecting our overall well-being. 

Social Media Addiction Statistics

  • Globally, there are nearly 4.7 billion social media users, which means almost 60% of the total population is using social media.
  • According to one research, approximately 210 million people worldwide suffer from internet and social media addiction!
  • Adults spend about 36% of their time online on social media platforms. 
  • Young adults (18-29 years old) seem to be most affected, with some studies suggesting addiction rates as high as 40%. 
  • Teens spending five to seven hours daily on smartphones are twice as likely to display symptoms of depression. In fact, they are extremely vulnerable to experiencing negative effects like emotional distress if they don’t get enough likes or engagement. 
  • According to a Facebook survey, 1 in 8 users report negative impacts on work, sleep, or parenting due to social media use, potentially affecting over 362 million users globally.
  • study found a significant positive relationship between fear of missing out (FOMO), social comparison, and social media addiction among young adults.
  • 68% of Americans check Facebook daily, as reported by Pew Research Center.
  • A shocking 43% of teenagers feel bad if their posts receive no likes, with the same percentage deleting posts that don’t meet their life goals.
  • Additionally, 35% of teens with low social-emotional well-being report being cyberbullied while using social media.

Social Media Addiction Symptoms

Today, everyone, from young kids to old people, has easy access to social media. Now, in such a situation, social media diction can sneak up on anyone. 

In fact, even before you realize it, our casual scrolling (at least that’s what we think or tell ourselves!) can become a consuming habit. 

So, how can we know your social media use is becoming a compulsive habit? Well, here are some social media addiction symptoms to watch out for: 

  • Constantly Thinking and Planning: Ever find yourself always thinking about social media? Planning when and how to use it next might be a sign things are getting out of hand.
  • Using Social Media as a Coping Mechanism: Are you turning to social media to escape or deal with personal problems? Well, using social media as a coping mechanism is a sign of social media addiction.
  • Spending a lot of time on social platforms: Spending more and more time on social media to feel satisfied is a huge red flag for addiction.
  • Emotional Distress: Do you feel restless, irritable, or anxious when you can’t use social media? Well, emotional dependency is a sign of growing addiction. 
  • Negative Impact on Life: Losing interest in other activities or neglecting work or school could signal a problem. If your social media habits start to negatively impact your job, academics, day-to-day responsibilities, relationships, or other areas of life, it’s time to take a step back.
  • Failed Attempts to Stop: well, finding it difficult to resist or stop using social despite your best efforts is a common sign of social media addiction. 
  • Loss of Interest in Other Activities: Have you lost interest in hobbies and activities you once enjoyed? Losing interest in hobbies and pastimes is another warning sign of social media addiction.
  • Relapse After Abstinence: If you quickly return to excessive social media use after a small break, it indicates a deeper addiction issue.

Social Media Addiction in Teens

We know social media addiction is a growing concern. Now, this is especially true for teenagers. 

Today, their lifestyles depend primarily on social media. During this phase of their life, when they are busy figuring out who they are, social media becomes a platform for self-expression, discovery, and connection. 

However, all this becomes a problem when the line between basic use and compulsive begins to blur. 

It can then lead to a severe impact on teenage mental, emotional, and physical health. 

According to research, teens who spend five hours or more on social media daily are twice as likely to experience depressive symptoms compared to others. Additionally, in another 2022 survey, nearly half of teens reported feeling lonely, anxious, depressed, and isolated (either sometimes, often, or always) after using social media.

But why are teens particularly vulnerable to social media addiction? 

social media dependency

Well, adolescence is practically the second most significant period of brain development. Social media platforms impact their mental growth, creating a deep-rooted dependency. Here’s how: 

  • Brain development: The reward system in the teenage brain is highly responsive to social interaction and validation. Now, social media provides this constant stream of “likes” and comments, triggering dopamine release and creating a cycle of seeking approval online.
  • Social needs: Teens crave social connection and belonging. Social media platforms offer a seemingly easy way to connect with people with different mindsets, explore ideas, participate in campaigns and group interactions, and thereby feel included.
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): Every day, things are changing; catching up and keeping oneself updated is the new cool, especially for most young minds. Not being able to get this can lead to FOMO, pushing teens to spend more time online to keep up.

Moreover, with rapidly evolving times, changing lifestyles, and changing social environments, it’s becoming difficult to avoid the trap of social media addiction. Sadly, teens are most susceptible! 

Excessive use of social media can rewire young brains, leading to obsessive and compulsive behaviors, which in turn can bring several negative impacts!

Signs of Social Media Addiction in Teens

compulsive behaviors

Some common signs of social media addiction in teens include:

  • They spend a lot of time on social media.
  • Even when they are offline, they are always talking or thinking about what’s happening online.
  • Their grades might start to drop.
  • They are often isolating themselves and avoid spending time with family and friends.
  • They seem less interested in things they used to enjoy, like playing, going out, or hobbies.
  • They avoid or delay household responsibilities or chores.
  • They might get upset or angry if you try to limit their social media use.
  • They struggle to get enough sleep, eat healthily, or exercise because they are always on their phones.
  • They might often complain about their looks or feel bad about themselves based on what they see on social media.
  • They might hide their social media accounts from you.
  • They feel like they have to constantly check social media, even when doing other things.
  • They may show signs of other mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, or more. (Note: Though social media may or may not be a direct cause here, it’s always best to discover the cause of your child’s mental health issues and address them carefully).

Common Causes of Excessive Social Media Use

Excessive social media use often results from many reasons, including: 

  • Platform appeal: Now, social media companies often use interactive and persuasive interfaces to keep users engaged for longer periods. Features like group chats, sharing stories, pictures, updates, polls, infinite scrolling, and push notifications are designed to capture and retain our attention. It’s like being caught in a loop, where the more we engage, the harder it becomes to break free- after all, everything is just so appealing!
  • FOMO: Feeling the need to keep up with anything and everything that is going online on social media can push many of us into spending more time online. Wanting to fit in or stay connected is a natural desire; we all have felt it at one point or another. However, this desire, especially in the case of social media use, can become unreasonable, leading to social media addiction.
  • Low self-esteem: Seeking validation and approval from others through likes and comments becomes addictive.
  • Inflated self-esteem: Now, opposite to the above point, for some people, using social media can be a way to show a glamorous or idealized version of themselves. This makes them feel happy and satisfied (even monetary) despite their real-life situation. 
  • Underlying Mental Health Conditions: For some people, underlying mental health conditions like depression or ADHD can be a common cause for excessive social media use. Using social media becomes a form of temporary coping mechanism or distraction. However, in the long run, it can create dependency and addiction.

Social Media Addiction Effects

Clearly, social media addiction comes along with some massive negative effects. Let’s take a quick look: 

1. Brain Fog and Memory Issues

brain fog

Well, you know excessive can affect our brain. It leads to shrinking grey matter, affecting and compromising our ability to concentrate, remember, and control impulses. 

This is especially concerning for young minds that are still developing. 

According to one research, excessive social media use is linked with reduced grey matter volume, especially in young adults. 

But the repercussions don’t end there. The dopamine dependency that increases with social media addiction messes up your motivation for everyday things. You end up stuck in a loop of constantly using social media instead of doing anything productive. 

2. Neck and Spine Issues

Constantly hunching over our phones or computers while using social media can take a toll on our posture. This habitual behavior can lead to strains on our neck and spine, resulting in chronic pain and mobility issues over time. 

3. Cyberbullying

The digital world isn’t always a friendly place, especially for young people, who are easily gullible. Cyberbullying, whether through hurtful comments, exclusion from online groups, or sharing embarrassing content without consent, can deeply affect mental health. 

What’s more, it’s not just about feeling hurt; cyberbullying has been linked to serious issues like depression, anxiety, and even thoughts of self-harm.

4. Relationships Issues

Ironically, while social media promises to connect us, addiction to it can damage real-life relationships. Focusing more on virtual interactions than giving time to real people and personal connections can lead to feelings of isolation and neglect, ultimately straining our relationships with loved ones.

5. Low Self-Esteem

Low Self-Esteem

Constant exposure to carefully presented, seemingly perfect lives on social media often leaves us feeling inadequate. Comparing ourselves to others can chip away at our self-esteem, leading to issues like body image issues and negative self-perception.

6. Sleep Issues

Scrolling through social media late at night is common for most addicts. In fact, I was doing the same when I was struggling with social media addiction in my college days. Moreover, this addiction disrupts our sleep patterns.  

According to research, the blue light emitted by screens interferes with our natural sleep hormone, melatonin, which disrupts the natural sleep cycle.

7. Mental health 

Excessive social media use affects our mental health. It triggers feelings of insecurity, jealousy, and aggression, particularly among young adults. It reduces empathy and confidence and often leads to social isolation, anxiety, and depression, significantly impacting our mental health.

8. Addiction

Perhaps the most concerning effect of excessive social media use is its potential to spiral out of control. The addictive nature of social media platforms, as well as the pressure to fit in, creates a toxic cycle that can harm mental health, relationships, and overall well-being.

Quotes about Social Media Addiction

Quotes can give us great motivation. However at the same time they bring us face to face with some harsh realities. So here are famous Quotes about social media addiction, by some great people:

“If you are scrolling through social media and not finding inspiration or learning something new, you might be missing the point,” – Germany Kent. (American broadcaster and journalist)

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt (26th U.S. President)

“Social media is ruining our conversations. Nobody listens anymore. We just wait for our turn to talk.” –Margaret Atwood (Author)

“Given that smartphones are now the preferred medium for accessing the internet, it’s evident that internet and smartphone addiction are becoming synonymous.” – Hilda Burke (Author)

“We need not sacrifice genuine human connection for the allure of digital connectivity.” – Austin Carlile (American singer and songwriter)

How Can You Break Social Media Addiction?

Well, undoing the effects and breaking free from social media addiction isn’t easy. It can take months of conscious effort to rewire your brain and break free from the cycle of dependency. 

But it’s not impossible! Each step of self-discipline, patience, and determination will take you closer to your goal of getting rid of social media addiction. Here are some tips to help:

  • Time Limiting: Firstly and most importantly, start by setting strict limits on your social media usage. You can consider abstaining altogether initially and gradually reintroducing limited time frames, such as 15 minutes per day, to avoid falling back into old habits. Now, you don’t need to do it alone! It’s best to use a reliable Social Media Blocker app.
  • Identify the Triggers: Sit back and think about what is triggering the compulsive use. Is boredom, procrastination, or loneliness pushing you to use your phone? Understanding your triggers is the first step to addressing them effectively. This will help you find healthier coping mechanisms to replace the urge of scrolling endlessly.
  • Silence Notifications: Now, if you are not ready to take a complete break, it’s best to go for monitored use! Fortunately, you have some great options here. You can use apps with features like schedule-based app blocking. This will help you select and set the days and time spans when you want to block certain apps. You can block apps as per your schedule!  
  • Find New Hobbies: Replace the time spent on social media with interesting and engaging activities. You can explore new hobbies, such as reading, exercising, or spending quality time with loved ones.
  • Try Digital Fasting Once a Week: You can try giving your mind a break by dedicating at least 6 to 12 hours every week to a screen-free time. Just like a digital fasting! You can use this time to focus on other activities. Just keep yourself distracted and busy.
  • Consider Using BlockerX: Explore tools like BlockerX. It is a reliable support designed to assist you in your journey towards digital detoxification. BlockerX helps you to set specific use limits, block unwanted and distracting apps, and regain control over your screen time.
  • Get Professional Help: If you are finding it difficult to manage social media addiction on your own, don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance. A therapist can provide valuable support and strategies to help you overcome digital dependency and form healthier habits.

What are the Possible Treatments for Social Media Addiction?

There are several treatment options possible for Social Media Addiction; these include:

1. Inpatient Treatment

In cases of severe addiction, inpatient treatment can be helpful. These programs help by providing a structured environment away from everyday triggers, allowing you to focus entirely on your recovery. 

Basically, with restricted access to the internet, addicts can break free from social media addiction and develop healthier habits.

2. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) combines the elements of CBT with mindfulness techniques. Through mindfulness practice, you learn to be more aware of your thoughts and emotions. This allows you to better understand and manage your triggers for social media use. DBT also includes group therapy and ongoing support, which is helpful in long-term recovery.

3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Another effective approach to treating social media addiction is through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In CBT, therapists work closely with you to identify and deal with the negative thoughts and behaviors associated with excessive social media use. 

Moreover, it’s time we understand and acknowledge the growing concern of Social Media Addiction. So sit back and ask yourself- Do you urgently need a digital detox and break free from Social Media Addiction?

If yes, get started NOW!

Social Media Addiction-FAQs

Q1. How many people are addicted to social media?

While the numbers constantly vary, presently it is found that around 210 million people worldwide and 33 million in the US are addicted to social media.

Q2. How is social media addictive?

Social media often hooks you with feel-good chemicals like dopamine from likes and engagement, creating a cycle of craving approval and coming back for more!

Q3. How does social media addiction affect students?

Excessive social media use can lead to many negative effects like poor performance in school, procrastination, increased isolation, decreased physical activity, productivity, and low self-esteem, affecting the everyday life of students.

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Lynda Mayer

Lynda Mayer

Lynda Mayer, LPCC, an alumnus of the University of Minnesota with a master's degree in Clinical Psychology, is a seasoned licensed professional clinical counselor. With over a decade of experience in counseling, she specializes in adolescent mental health. Lynda actively shares her extensive knowledge and insights through writing, contributing significantly to the field of psychology and mental well-being. Her work not only demonstrates her expertise but also her commitment to improving adolescent mental health outcomes.

About BlockerX

BlockerX is an adult content-blocking app for Android, iOS, desktop & chrome. In addition to blocking adult content, BlockerX also has a strong community of 100,000 members and courses that help you work on your porn problems, one step at a time.

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