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Exploring the Addictive Nature of Social Networks

Dear Insight,

I am writing to you to ask you about something that is starting to worry me. I have been using social networks for almost 17 years, practically since they began to become popular. The point is that I have never felt that I spend too much time on social networks as I have for 3 years.

The truth is I don't know why. It's not like a very relevant event had occurred that prompted me to do it, but I have noticed that my screen time has to exceed 12 hours a day and for some reason, it is too difficult for me to reduce it. Should I be worried?

I would appreciate any advice you could offer to help me support my friend.

Thank you so much in advance.

Maurice


Dear Maurice,

Thanks for writing. Research suggests that social media addiction shares similarities with substance addiction, such as cravings, withdrawal symptoms, sleep disorders, and loss of control.

Moreover, the design of social media platforms plays a significant role in fueling addiction. Features like infinite scrolling, push notifications, and personalized content algorithms are carefully engineered to keep users engaged for longer periods.

This continuous reinforcement creates a cycle of dependency, making it difficult for individuals to disengage from their online personas.

The relentless pursuit of likes and validation can take a toll on our mental well-being. Constant comparison with others, known as "social comparison," can breed feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.

Moreover, curated portrayals of life on social media often distort reality, leading to unrealistic expectations and dissatisfaction with one's own life. Also, the fear of missing out (FOMO) drives many individuals to constantly check their social media feeds, even at the expense of real-life experiences.

This chronic need to stay connected can disrupt relationships, hinder productivity, and exacerbate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

While social media addiction is a real concern, it's essential to remember that not all social media use is inherently harmful. By adopting mindful practices, we can harness the benefits of social networks while mitigating the risks to our mental health:

  • Set Boundaries: Establish designated times for checking social media and limit the total duration of use each day.
  • Practice Digital Detox: Take periodic breaks from social media to recharge and reconnect with the world around you.
  • Curate Your Feed: Unfollow accounts that trigger negative emotions and cultivate a positive, uplifting online environment.
  • Engage in Real-Life Activities: Prioritize offline activities such as hobbies, exercise, and face-to-face interactions with friends and family.
  • Seek Support: If you're struggling to control your social media use, don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional for guidance and support.

By understanding the underlying mechanisms of social media addiction and adopting healthy usage habits, we can navigate the digital landscape mindfully and cultivate a balanced relationship with technology.

Remember, your mental health matters, both online and offline.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. Disaster Distress Helpline: CALL or TEXT 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish)

You can also contact The Samaritans for emotional support 24 hours a day - in full confidence. Call 116 123 - it's FREE.

For immediate assistance or if you are in crisis, please consider reaching out to the following hotlines:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
  • Crisis Text Line: Text "HOME" to 741741

Remember that while these resources can provide valuable information, it's essential to consult with a mental health professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist, for a personalized assessment and treatment plan tailored to your specific needs. The resources you choose may depend on the severity of your stress and your personal preferences. It's important to find the support that works best for you, whether that's through professional therapy, self-help tools, or a combination of approaches. If your stress is overwhelming or persistent, consider reaching out to a mental health professional for personalized guidance and support.

Disclaimer: The content on this website is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice. Please consult with a qualified mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment.

If you or someone you know is in need of talking to a professional, contact us now to schedule your initial virtual session.

You can call us at 888-409-8976 or click HERE to schedule it online.

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