Is social media more addictive than drugs and alcohol? Over the past few years, awareness has been rising regarding the potentially addictive nature of social media as more people around the world sign up for an increasing number of social media platforms, and the hours we spend online go through the roof.
But is the constant pinging of notifications and the urge to scroll through and keep up to date with our followers rivalling the temptation of drugs and alcohol? In this article, we set out to answer exactly that.
The Rise of Social Media Addiction
While it’s not yet officially classed as a disorder, the phrase ‘social media addiction’ is widely known.
As of October 2023, there are now over 4.95 billion active social media users around the world, totalling more than half of the global population. Social media users typically spend around 145 minutes online daily, which equates to 2.4 hours daily. Pew Research Centre found that 90% of those aged between 18 and 29 used social media, and more than half said they visit multiple times a day. However, those suffering from social media addiction are likely to spend much more online.
Social media addiction is also characterised by mood changes relating to usage – for example, becoming angry or upset when limitations are put in place, as well as neglect of social responsibilities in order to browse social media. What’s more, studies show that up to 10% of social media users could be classed as social media addicts and FOMO, the fear of missing out, is often cited as one of the biggest drivers of the addiction. This is because individuals feel like they must continuously check their social media to ensure they’re not left out.
Interestingly, social media addiction is most common among young adults and often accompanies mental health concerns. This can include conditions such as depression, anxiety, and decreased self-worth.
Drugs, Alcohol and Social Media Likes
When looking at social media addiction, it’s important to assess how addictions develop and the neurology of addiction as a whole.
At the centre of this is the brain’s reward system, which is stimulated when substances like drugs and alcohol are consumed, and activities like browsing social media, shopping and gambling are carried out. This is because when this system is stimulated, the brain releases dopamine, which is responsible for feelings of pleasure.
Over time, and with repeated use, the brain can become overstimulated and seek out these experiences and substances in order to feel pleasure and happiness. It’s important to note that while the process is similar, the intensity of dopamine that is released when drugs or alcohol are consumed is much more severe than when simply browsing social media.
Comparing the Impact of Social Media Addiction: Substance Abuse vs. Social Media Overuse
As with any addiction, it’s important to remember that just because someone uses social media or drinks alcohol, it doesn’t mean they are addicted or that they will become addicted. However, whatever type of addiction some are struggling with, it can have a big impact on their physical and mental health as well as other aspects of their life, including relationships, careers, and finances.
Drug and alcohol addiction can cause a range of health concerns, including liver damage, heart issues, and certain cancers. But while social media addiction might not directly cause the above physical harm, prolonged social media use can be linked to eye strain and poor posture. What’s more, there is also what’s known as tech neck, which is neck pain and strain which occurs from constantly looking down.
In addition to this, its social and emotional effects can be severe. This includes cyberbullying, constant comparison and mental health concerns like anxiety, depression and a lack of self-worth. Repeated use of social media has also been linked to loneliness. What’s more, sleep can also be affected by social media use, especially when it’s used before bedtime, as the blue light emitted from technological devices can affect the body’s natural production of melatonin, which is a hormone that is responsible for sleep.
Every type of addiction, including social media addiction, can also lead to withdrawal symptoms when trying to cut back. This can include mood swings, restlessness, or even a persistent urge to check social media platforms. Those suffering from social media addiction may also find that they use social media more often to feel satisfied.
Social Media vs Substance Addiction: Which Is More Addictive?
The truth is, we can’t say whether one addiction is worse than any other, as they all have the capability to affect an individual’s health, career, finances and relationships. However, it may be that currently, there are more people receiving treatment for substance addiction.
What’s more, unlike drugs and alcohol, social media is available to all, often without any barriers, which can make the risks of overusing even more apparent. Not to mention that social media appears to be an ever-present temptation and is almost considered a normal part of day-to-day life for many.
Tips on How to Spend Less Time on Social Media
If you are concerned about your own social media use or someone you care about, it’s important to speak to someone or the individual to try and deal with the situation before it gets any worse. The tips below can also help you use social media more safely.
- Have a digital detox either by being offline for a set amount of time or having a week without it.
- Mute notifications to reduce the amount of pings and your urge to check.
- Be wary of mindlessly scrolling and instead dedicate specific time to being on social media.
- Try to create meaningful connections with a few friends rather than hundreds of social media followers.
Remember, if you need professional support, don’t be afraid to reach out. Any type of addiction can have a huge impact on someone’s life, but getting help quickly can mean that you’re able to take control of your life once more.
Plus, at Action Rehab, we can provide access to specialist and tailored programmes that are suitable for all types of addictions, so whatever your unique needs, we’re here to help you. Call us today to talk to our friendly and understanding team for more information.
Posted on Friday, October 20th, 2023 at 1:39 pm in Addiction.