Social media is not always the evil villain people try to make it out to be. It has some great benefits. It allows people to maintain connection, express themselves, share content, provide support, give a sense belonging, create awareness of important issues, and provide a place to gain information and knowledge. In many ways, it allows people to be more connected than any other generation before them. However, there are real issues that can arise when it comes to social media. Because of the exponential, rapid rise of smart phone technology and social media use, there is not the longitudinal research really needed to understand the problems that can come from overuse. Research has revealed some of the pitfalls of social media including: potential for cyberbullying and risky sexual behavior, oversharing, depression and anxiety, addiction, and the lacking ability to communicate in-person. It is designed to keep you coming back for more so there is an addictive component. It has been found that the same dopamine rush people get from drinking, smoking, and gambling occurs when people get “likes” and “followers.” Even the notification color for Facebook was chosen because red has a way of catching the eye that other colors don’t. With unlimited access, it is not difficult to see how a person can become addicted to social media.
Monitoring social media use is solely in the hands of each person. The first step to changing any behavior is recognizing the problem. If someone looks at their social media when they wake up, that might be the first indication there’s a problem. If there is nothing going on during the day, whether it’s a break at work or standing in line, and someone is constantly checking their social media, that can be an early sign there’s a problem. If someone is unable to go a couple hours without their phone or even find themselves checking their social media at inappropriate times, like during meetings or dinner with friends, that is illustrating some addictive behaviors. It is important to recognize these signs and begin making changes. Here are some tips to help break the addiction:
Admit you have a problem. It’s the first step in a 12-step program because in order to make changes, you have to recognize the issue first. Awareness and insight are power. It gives people the ability to make the changes they need to make in their life.
Delete the app. It seems overly simple, but it is probably one of the biggest tools in overcoming an addiction. Delete the app on the phone and any other devices. It takes the mindless one-click process away and adds extra steps, requiring extra thought if someone wants to use it.
Make it more difficult to login. Another helpful tool is changing the password to a series of numbers, letters, and special characters too long to easily remember. Write it down somewhere and keep it in one place (i.e. don’t write it in a note that’s on the phone and is always easy to check). It makes it more difficult to login randomly especially if the app is already been deleted.
Understand why you’re addicted and address the underlying issue. Often, addictions come from a deeper place. People who obsessively check social media might be searching for validation, connection, and belonging in a virtual world because they don’t experience those things in the real world. Addressing the root of the addiction can be like cutting off the head of the snake.
Have someone keep you accountable. When making difficult changes, it is always great to have accountability. The 12-step programs make that a feature for a reason. Even the most difficult of changes can happen with the help of accountability and community.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She also has a special interest in working with athletes and has been bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is in the process of becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant to further her expertise in sports psychology. Prior to her move to Abilene, Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.