When social media becomes addictive

More than 80 million people in Germany use social media, the most active users are aged 18- 29, and while the internet started out as a tool to help people to stay in contact with friends and family, it lately has become an increasing activity of scrawling and checking through our phones to get the latest news via social media.

Although most people that use social media use it in a non-problematic way, there is a small number of users that becomes addicted to social networks or their smartphones.

A study published by the “Survey” has shown that screentime among teenagers has increased by 17% since 2019.

But what makes it so attractive for us to be constantly online?

That can be easily answered: When we use social media, our brain can set free dopamine, a “feel-good” chemical that is released when the brain’s reward system is triggered.

Dopamine is the same chemical our brain releases when we gamble, eat, smoke, or use our smartphones.

The usual “type” of a social media addict is a young person aged 16 – 24. There are different reasons for a person to become social – media addicted. Some of them are low self-esteem, personal dissatisfaction, or a lack of affection.

Addictive use of social media has consequences much like other substance use disorders. The engagement in social media will lead to positive mood swings. The addicted user will feel validated due to likes or positive comments under their post. Over time that will lead to the user craving that validation, or rather the dopamine that is set free by getting the so called “likes”. The user starts to develop addictive behaviour like feeling bad when they don’t get the wanted likes or retweets, feeling down when there is no access to the internet, getting stressed when their smartphone isn’t available, or needing to check their socials first thing in the morning.

This addictive behaviour will lead to a lack of productivity or unhealthy social relationships.

People that are addicted to social media also have a much higher risk of becoming depressed than not addicted people.

In the day-to-day life, the addicted user will be overly concerned with the thought to miss out on something. So they will constantly log on to or use social media. They devote so much time and effort to social media that it controls them, which leads to them impairing other important life areas like school or work. 

By anonymous, picture: Marco Verch