I know I’ve grown dependent on social media, even when I was drowning in hospital and med school work. I’ve been spending more time on my phone now that I have free time and don’t have any freelance work to do. Even when I attend conferences, I would find myself absent-mindedly scrolling the continuous feeds of social media sites. Yes, even when I should be listening closely. Whenever I try to study, I’d make social media my break, and before you know it, my study materials have already been forgotten and I’ve been on social media for hours already. I’d say I’ll not touch my phone and transfer to my laptop, but I’d still open my social media sites there. A conservative estimate of the time I spend on social media would be 6-8 hours, and I feel like I exceed that sometimes.
I know that my social media scrolling is already unhealthy. I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. It detailed how social media sites are taking over our lives and companies are taking advantage of that. Unsurprisingly, that did not decrease my social media use. I think I’m already bordering on addiction.
I need to change this, I thought for the nth time. Today, I actually followed through. I turned off the WiFi on my phone and slept most of the day away so I could take my mind off scrolling. I am now using my laptop and I haven’t opened any social media sites. It’s so hard because I’m craving social media. Some part of me is saying that I can go on social media just a bit for a reward, but I know if I go online, I’d go on a downward spiral again.
I think that social media is now a modern drug. It triggers our brain to secrete dopamine, which is the reward chemical. This makes us crave it so we would feel the rush again. Because of this, we would become dependent to it. Our body will look for that sensation again and again. With our world today, being on your phone all the time is already normalized. Case in point, my parents are even on their phones more than me.
I know I’m not the only one feeling the social media craving. This is why I became curious about the studies on social media addiction. According to Hawi, N. and Samaha, M. (2016), social media addiction is the compulsion of using social media sites. Users exhibit signs of addiction like tolerance, conflict, withdrawal, relapse, and mood modification. I admit I’ve had all of these symptoms in the past. People use social media sites for social interaction, self-interaction, and identity (Kietzmann, et. al., 2011). People with low self-esteem are also more likely to use social media and get their validation there (Steinfeld, et. al., 2008). What do you know? It IS me. It sucks that this is true. In the study mentioned previously, that of Hawi and Samaha, the proponents had university students in Lebanon answer questionnaires relating to social media use. The results showed there was a negative correlation of social media use and self-esteem, meaning those with low self-esteem tend to use social media more. There was no significant difference between females and males in the use of social media.
In a study by Blasco, R., Cosculluela, C., and Robres, A. (2020), they surveyed students in a university in Spain. They found that younger people were predisposed to social media addiction. They also found that anxiety increases when social media use decreases in people who use social media excessively. For me, this is alarming because a lot of people worldwide have already been conditioned to rely on social media.
It has been estimated that smartphone use worldwide would balloon to 6.8 billion people in 2022 (Ericsson, 2017). Social media site users have also skyrocketed, with Facebook having 1.52 billion daily active users and Twitter having 2.32 billion monthly users as of December 2018 (Settanni, et. al., 2018). I think more companies would exploit these facts and the general population wouldn’t know any better.
However, not all hope is lost! In a study by Hou, Y., Xiong, D., Jiang, T., Song, L., and Wang, Q. (2019), they developed a self-help intervention program. Their results showed that the intervention was effective in reducing social media addiction, improving their self-esteem, and improving academic performance. I hope that more intervention programs specifically tailored for social media addiction would be formulated for different societal subgroups. God knows how much that would help people.