Social Media Addiction: Definition, Common Signs & Options For Help


While social media debuted as a convenient way to connect with people who share a common interest, it quickly morphed into a coveted hobby for users of all ages.

You’re not alone if you remain glued to your go-to social media platforms. According to a 2019 survey, 40% of US online users between 18 and 22 reported feeling addicted to social media.

Are you struggling with social media addiction? Fortunately, social media addiction isn’t the end of the road. Read on to learn more about this addiction, including what you can do about it.

What Is Social Media Addiction?

Social media addiction is the unhealthy reliance on interactive social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. The addiction features an excessive obsession with social media driven by an irresistible urge to use social media and investing a lot of time in social media that impacts other aspects of life.

Understanding how such a harmless hobby can become an alarming addiction can be puzzling. However, excessive dependence on social media can result in symptoms typically linked to substance use disorder. Like other common types of addictions, social media addiction emerges as excessive usage and difficulties in refraining.

Do Social Media Addiction Urges Go Away?

While social media addiction poses significant psychological and social effects, you can counter the addiction urges. With a social media detox plan, you can eliminate the urge to use these interactive platforms.

The basics of addiction teach that social media addiction, like other substance-related addictions, involves dopamine. But unlike the latter, social media addiction is a psychological disorder and doesn’t feature physical withdrawal symptoms when you quit. So, you can skip the gradual weaning and opt for cold-turkey approaches to manage your social media urges.

You need to cease rewarding your dopamine triggers for your brain to regain normalcy, and you can’t do that if you’re always satisfying your appetite. Also, with small doses, you are more prone to relapse into addiction.

So, yes, social media urges do go away, but only if you manage them effectively.

Forms of Social Media Addiction

Social media addiction encompasses a variety of behaviors and impulse-control issues related to using social media platforms. Although there aren’t universally accepted criteria for diagnosing social media addiction, researchers have identified various subcategories.

Here are five forms of social media addiction:

Facebook Addiction

Facebook addiction is one of the most prevalent forms of social media addiction, affecting most users.

Facebook engagement that increases self-creation can enhance dopamine, increasing the urge to use this social media platform. The Facebook dopamine reward system is also in effect in other forms of addictions.


The insatiable need for online interaction via messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp characterizes this form of social media addiction. The habit may push users to check their devices occasionally to see whether there are any new message notifications.

Online Dating

Internet dating addicts are so preoccupied with establishing and sustaining connections online that they frequently forget and ignore their real-life family and friends.

In the social media scene, online dating is prevalent in chat rooms and other social networking platforms. The outcome of addictive online dating via social media is limited in-person social skills and impractical expectations for in-person interactions.


From the phrase “no mobile phone phobia,” this term defines a psychological condition in which users experience anxiety and fear when deprived of their mobile device. Losing a smartphone, having an uncharged device, or having no connectivity can trigger panic episodes in some people with this form of social media addiction.


The microblogging problem is the excessive use of microblogs, a form of traditional blogging that contains brief bits of information available in text, audio, or video. One of the most popular social media platforms for microblogging is Twitter.

Social Media Addiction Statistics

Here are some statistics highlighting the severity of social media addiction:

  • Up to 10% of people in the US live with social media addiction.
  • According to Facebook research, about 12.5% of users use social media compulsively, affecting other aspects of their lives, including sleep, work, or parenting.
  • According to a 2017 study of adolescents published in Plos One, 4.5% of young adults lived with social media addiction.
  • According to a 2018 study on social media usage and health status among pre-university college students (PUs), the incidence of social media addiction was 34%, evenly split between private and government PUs.
  • An estimated 27% of youngsters who spend three or more hours daily on social media show poor psychological health symptoms.

What Are the Signs of Social Media Addiction?

You’ve social media accounts across various platforms and often enjoy using them. But what are the signs of a social media addiction? Let’s walk you through some reflags for social media addiction.

You Lie About the Time You Spend on Social Media

People suffering from social media addiction are frequently ashamed of their time on social media. So, if you’re hooked to social media, you would lie to your loved ones about the time you spend pursuing various platforms.

You Feel Uneasy When Offline

If being away from your phone or losing connectivity makes you uneasy or the possibility of staying off social media makes you anxious, you may be living with addiction. This feeling entails the constant desperate urge to monitor and update your social media profiles occasionally.

You Check Your Social Media Accounts First Thing in the Morning

If the first thing on your mind when you wake up is containing the updates on your social media accounts, you probably have a somewhat unhealthy relationship with tech. It also applies to any free time you get during or at the end of your workday.

Others Worry About Your Social Media Activity

Personal relationships may suffer when social media addicts spend more time online. Your loved ones, including family, friends, and workmates, can notice unhealthy social media use tendencies. If they are concerned with your social media use, you may be suffering from addiction.

You Wish To Quit, but You Can’t

You may notice you have an unhealthy relationship with social media but find it hard to quit. Even after taking the bold step to leave social media, including logging out of your accounts and deleting them, it’s not long until you’re back to your routine. This struggle can be a sign that you live with social media addiction.

You Neglect Your Duties and Hobbies for Social Media

When social media continues to consume a considerable chunk of your time, you may neglect your work- or school-related responsibilities. Also, your other hobbies will suffer from excessive social media use as you spend endless time scrolling.

You Constantly Monitor Your Posts’ Performance

Social media is supposed to be a pleasant way to engage with online friends rather than a mind-consuming task. If you get preoccupied with the number of likes your post gets, it indicates that you are putting too much emphasis on social media interactions. Also, if how people react to your postings impacts you emotionally, it shows that you must limit your time online.

You Rely on Social Media as a Coping Mechanism

While social media can be an ideal way to cope with distress by offering a buffering distraction, it can be harmful if you overly rely on it. If you increasingly turn to social media whenever you face problems or negative emotions, such as loneliness and anxiety, you may be suffering from addiction.

Types of Unhealthy Social Media Behavior

Besides the signs above, some behaviors indicate unhealthy social media behavior, including:

  • Doing things for likes
  • Using social media in secret
  • Replacing face-to-face interaction with online connections
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Oversharing
  • Ignoring real life
  • Anger or distress when unable to use social media
  • Disruptions of sleep, mealtime, and exercise patterns

What Is the Main Cause of Social Media Addiction?

There are various contributing factors to social media addiction. These factors include the fear of missing out (FOMO), smartphone addiction, and pre-existing mental conditions.

However, the most significant cause of social media addiction is the technology’s variability of rewards. Social media users are constantly showered with positive and negative reinforcements, keeping them wondering about the “winning formula” on these online platforms.

For instance, you may post a selfie and get many likes and comments, providing a pleasurable feeling about yourself. But if you post another selfie and get a lower response, you’ll be left guessing another formula to get a better response. This cycle can make you invest more time on social media, hoping to be rewarded again, causing addiction.

Furthermore, social media platforms offer incentives to users. High-profile celebrities or brands may provide gifts to their fans in exchange for sharing information with friends.

Also, restaurants and delivery firms are continually advertising specials for social media users, incentivizing people to check in or utilize their services online. Many of these elements can easily make people feel like they are “missing out” when not on social media.

How Social Media Addiction Affects the Brain

Self-disclosure on social media platforms affects the brain by activating the same area of the brain that the use of an addictive substance stimulates.

When you have a pleasurable experience or consume an addictive substance, neurons in the brain’s main dopamine-producing regions are stimulated, raising dopamine levels. Consequently, the brain receives a “reward” and links the substance or action with positive reinforcement.

This effect is present in social media usage; when you receive a like, mention, or comment notification, your brain gets a dopamine rush, enabling you to feel pleasure. For comparatively little effort, social media offers infinite quick rewards in the form of external attention and approval.

Moreover, research shows a correlation between social media use and poor mental health and self-esteem. While social networking sites have certain advantages, using them excessively might cause people to become progressively dissatisfied and isolated.

These adverse mental responses result from the social pressure to share posts, the comparison of materialistic possessions and lifestyles, and the inadequacy about your appearance, promoted by social media.

Besides general dissatisfaction, social media addiction can increase the chances of developing mental health problems like anxiety and depression. The constant comparison of oneself to other users can result in self-consciousness or a need for perfection, frequently manifesting as a social anxiety disorder.

How Do I Stop My Social Media Addiction?

Whether you live with social media addiction or simply spend more time on the platforms than you need, the good news is that there’s a cure for your struggles.

Most people worry if professional treatment is possible when treating a social media addiction. While social media addiction has gained acknowledgment as a diagnosable problem in past years, it doesn’t feature as a disorder in the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

There are, however, various therapy alternatives for social media addiction. The most common therapies for social media addiction are:

Unlike substance addiction, social media addiction doesn’t generate physical withdrawal symptoms that need to be monitored by medical specialists throughout detox. So, when you seek a therapist that specializes in addiction, you can overcome your addiction without joining a residential treatment center.

The severity of your addiction, the presence of any co-occurring mental diseases or drug use disorders, and various other criteria will determine the degree of remedy you require. If you have just recently begun to notice the negative impacts of social media use, various self-help tips can assist you.

Below are some insightful tips to help you remedy your social media addiction:

  • Scale back on the number of social media platforms you use
  • Swap out your social media activity for real-life hobbies
  • Limit your social media usage to 1-2 times per day

What Can I Replace Social Media With?

Every day, the average person spends about 142 minutes on social media. That’s over two hours you could spend doing things you enjoy, pursuing your objectives, or caring for yourself.

You may wonder what to do instead of spending time on social media, especially if you spend a fair chunk of your day scrolling. Here are some alternatives you can try out:

  • Read a book
  • Have an in-person conversation
  • Participate in online classes
  • Exercise
  • Journal
  • Meditate
  • Take a nap

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some FAQs about social media addiction.

How is social media harmful?

Social media can harm your life since it diverts your attention, making it difficult to concentrate on important things like school or work. Another way social media can affect you is that it disrupts your sleeping pattern, causing several health-related issues.

What is the most common research study about the effects of social media?

The common study about social media addiction is its effects on mental health, especially among adolescents and students.

Additional Addictions To Be Aware Of

Video Game Addiction: This addiction, also called internet gaming disorder, is a condition in which you have little control over your gaming activities, which has a detrimental impact on many areas of your life.

Internet Addiction: This is marked by obsessive or poorly managed computer and internet preoccupations, cravings, or behaviors that cause impairment or distress.

Cell Phone Addiction: This is excessive smartphone use, typically quantified by the number of times you access your device.

Wrapping Up

Although social media is all about interaction, its addiction ironically fosters isolation. If you suspect you have some of the symptoms of social media addiction, consider restricting how often you sign in, and the time you spend on these sites.

If you can’t control your social media usage, consider seeking help from our addiction treatment professionals.



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