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When you hear the word “addiction” what is the first thing that comes into your mind? Is it drugs? Alcohol? Cigarettes? Gambling? There is however a kind of addiction that has emerged and we aren’t giving it attention or were not accepting it into ourselves that we are in fact addicted to it: The addictive drive towards social media and the validation this gives us. 

This need for validation has us reaching out for our phones, computers and tablets to record our life as a way of showing others how popular we are, how slim we look and what a wonderful life we’re having. Yet we all know that life in reality is worlds 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 is a somewhat narcissistic element, and I believe all of us has narcissistic tendencies as we are raised a generation of self centered individuals who insist on having their whole life displayed on social media (I’m not just referring to young people).

What I find interesting is that I know of a number of people who have so little to say face to face yet are the ones posting comments, observations and their entire collection of holiday photos on Facebook.  The fact that a large portion of people including me checks their social media (especially their Facebook accounts) before getting up in the morning, shows the levels of anxiety this has created.

It’s incredibly easy to fall into an addiction cycle with social media, Because of this tendency towards addiction – I know I am always becoming obsessed with one form of media or another – it’s important to recognize the stages of addiction, and learn how to recover from it.

First Use. This is a glorious time. Everything about it is new and fresh. You’ve never looked at the Internet in this way before. You scroll and click your way through pages and pages of exciting content. Or, you can do what I often do, and just lurk on Pinterest creating a digital version of what your life would be like in a world with endless time and money. It’s very easy to slip directly into addiction in this stage, but it often wears off and you enter.

Continued Use. You’ve been using the same types of digital media for a while, and have no particularly strong urge to change your ways. It’s enjoyable watching new users struggle to use some forms of social media, whether they’re your grandmother or an unfriendly coworker. You get it, and they don’t. You’re in the “in-crowd.”

Risky Use. “Risky” users of digital media are not quite addicted – not quite completely dependent, but they definitely spend unhealthy amounts of time plugged into the digital world. Your Phone is your best 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 that you’ve been trying to level up in mobile game all afternoon.

Your weekends are consumed by Netflix, you don’t remember the last time that you touched a physical newspaper, and you spend more time communicating with friends via social media than you do with them in the physical world.

You know you have a problem, but you don’t care, because you need that media fix. You can’t check your phone or respond to notifications. People joke that your smartphone is an extension of your arm, and you would turn home halfway through a 45-minute drive if you forgot it. This addiction only scales up from here, entering the world of addicts where people who don’t sleep at all because they are glued to their screens.

Any of these stages can be dealt with effectively, and scaled back in a way where you can enjoy the perks of the social media world, while still living a fulfilling life. How ironic it is that you’ll know reading this through your screen and frowning because you can’t accept it. You can start by accepting the fact that you are addicted, so just you know I am also in this stage. Try unplugging every now and then. Go for a walk without taking photos and posting it. Bring a notepad and when you want to tweet something wrote it there. Try going to dinner with your friends and putting all your smartphones in a stack in the center of the table.

Recovering from a social media addiction is not easy, but making an effort to do a little bit every day will make a difference. What stage are you?


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