When you hear theword “addiction” what is the first thing that comes into your mind? Is itdrugs? Alcohol? Cigarettes? Gambling? There is however a kind of addiction thathas emerged and we aren’t giving it attention or were not accepting it intoourselves that we are in fact addicted to it: Theaddictive drive towards social media and the validation this gives us.
This need forvalidation has us reaching out for our phones, computers and tablets to recordour life as a way of showing others how popular we are, how slim we look andwhat a wonderful life we’re having. Yet we all know that life in reality isworlds apart from what is portrayed.
When we get“likes” from posting pictures or comments, it reawakens a feeling of belonging,of being accepted and validated, and therefore we continue this cycle. There isa somewhat narcissistic element, and I believe all of us has narcissistictendencies as we are raised a generation of self centered individuals whoinsist on having their whole life displayed on social media (I’m not justreferring to young people).
What I findinteresting is that I know of a number of people who have so little to say faceto face yet are the ones posting comments, observations and their entire collectionof holiday photos on Facebook. The factthat a large portion of people including me checks their social media(especially their Facebook accounts) before getting up in the morning, showsthe levels of anxiety this has created.
It’s incrediblyeasy to fall into an addiction cycle with social media, Because of thistendency towards addiction – I know I am always becoming obsessed with one formof media or another – it’s important to recognize the stages of addiction, andlearn how to recover from it.
First Use. Thisis a glorious time. Everything about it is new and fresh. You’ve never lookedat the Internet in this way before. You scroll and click your way through pagesand pages of exciting content. Or, you can do what I often do, and just lurk onPinterest creating a digital version of what your life would be like in a worldwith endless time and money. It’s very easy to slip directly into addiction inthis stage, but it often wears off and you enter.
Continued Use. You’ve been using the same typesof digital media for a while, and have no particularly strong urge to changeyour ways. It’s enjoyable watching new users struggle to use some forms ofsocial media, whether they’re your grandmother or an unfriendly coworker. Youget it, and they don’t. You’re in the “in-crowd.”
Risky Use. “Risky” users of digital media arenot quite addicted – not quite completely dependent, but they definitely spendunhealthy amounts of time plugged into the digital world. Your Phone is yourbest friend. You would never show up to a meeting without your trusty laptop.
Addiction and Complete Dependency. Hours of your free time disappear completely before you notice thatyou’ve been trying to level up in mobile game all afternoon.
Your weekends areconsumed by Netflix, you don’t remember the last time that you touched aphysical newspaper, and you spend more time communicating with friends viasocial media than you do with them in the physical world.
You know you havea problem, but you don’t care, because you need that media fix. You can’t checkyour phone or respond to notifications. People joke that your smartphone is anextension of your arm, and you would turn home halfway through a 45-minutedrive if you forgot it. This addiction only scales up from here, entering theworld of addicts where people who don’t sleep at all because they are glued totheir screens.
Any of thesestages can be dealt with effectively, and scaled back in a way where you canenjoy the perks of the social media world, while still living a fulfillinglife. How ironic it is that you’ll know reading this through your screen andfrowning because you can’t accept it. You can start by accepting the fact thatyou are addicted, so just you know I am also in this stage. Try unpluggingevery now and then. Go for a walk without taking photos and posting it. Bring anotepad and when you want to tweet something wrote it there. Try going todinner with your friends and putting all your smartphones in a stack in thecenter of the table.
Recovering from asocial media addiction is not easy, but making an effort to do a little bitevery day will make a difference. What stage are you?