How Social Media Addiction Affected My Life
Social media addiction is real. The definition of addiction is a complex psycho-physiological process manifested in any behavior in which a person finds pleasure and relief and therefore craves but suffers consequences without being able to give it up.1 Typically, addiction is associated with drugs, gambling, or shopping. But recently, after years of scrolling Instagram before getting out of bed, I couldn't help but wonder how many other people do the same thing. How many of us meet the criteria for social media addiction?
My Social Media Addiction Progression
Luckily, I had a social media-free childhood. Facebook became mainstream when I was 18, and I didn't get my first smartphone until my 25th birthday. During those early days of social media, it felt exhilarating to build connections with folks all over the globe. This technological revolution made it seem like we were living in a futuristic Jetson-like world.
Over the past decade, social media has become a part of everyday life. In my experience, with a history of bulimia and alcohol abuse, it was easy to fall into the trap of social media addiction. I got hooked on the dopamine hit that accompanied likes. Instead of being authentic or present, I became obsessed with creating a perfectly put-together and highly filtered online facade. Social media gave me the external validation I craved, but it left me internally hollow.
Another pitfall of social media is that it magnifies unhealthy comparisons. Rather than spending my 20s getting married, having kids, and building a career, I was battling life-threatening addictions and trying to stay out of jail. Now in my mid-30s, I am still picking up the pieces and rebuilding my life. Social media constantly fed me the shiny highlight reel of my peers and family members' lives who did everything "right" during their 20s, making me feel lousy and behind. It filled me with "shoulds" and distracted me from my progress.
Taking a Break Due to Social Media Addiction
A few weeks ago, I decided to take a break from social media. My withdrawal symptoms were a clear indicator that I was, in fact, addicted to social media. I noticed that I picked up my phone whenever I felt bored or uncomfortable. Even though social media, in my experience, did more harm than good, it still filled a void.
I don't think my relationship with social media is unique. Many of us struggle to be at peace with our lives exactly as they are. Social media is addicting because it creates an alternate reality. Scrolling upon waking is nothing to ashamed of. It is simply a sign of discontentment. Like any addiction, awareness and compassionate curiosity are the first steps toward change.
Gabor Maté: A new understanding of addiction | Network Ireland - Irish Holistic Magazine. (n.d.). https://networkmagazine.ie/articles/gabor-mat%C3%A9-new-understanding-addiction
Cronkright, K. (2023, July 25). How Social Media Addiction Affected My Life, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2023/7/how-social-media-addiction-affected-my-life