Are you a social media addict? Here are six simple questions:
- Are you spending a lot of time thinking about social media or planning to use social media, when not online?
- Are you not able to curb the urge of using social media more and more over time?
- Are you using social media to forget about personal problems?
- Are you getting success when you try to reduce your use of social media?
- Are you restless or troubled if you are unable to use social media?
- Are there any negative impacts on your job, relationship or studies by your use of social media?
If the answer was “yes” to a few of these questions, then it’s likely for you to be fairly standard, habitual social media user. However, most of us would probably benefit from ‘Digital Detox’, a strategy devised that forces us to reduce the time duration spent on social media.
There are a few basic steps one has to take to benefit from the strategy such as turning off the sound function on your phone, limit yourself to check your phone every hour or so, have self-imposed ‘No-screen’ time for large parts of the day.
However, if the answer was “yes” to most or all of these questions, then either you have developed or developing an actual addiction to social media. The only way to confirm just like in the case of any psychological disorder or condition is through a formal diagnosis from a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.
The studies in 2011 done by two expert academics show that the Individuals who are in the small minority had a significant detrimental effect on many aspects of life including relationships, work & academic achievement due to their usage of social media. It can be argued upon that such signs are indicative of addiction similar to the experience with alcohol & drugs.
Although there are a relatively small number of people that are diagnosed as addicted, the impact that social media has is apparent and that too negative whether its deemed clinical addiction or not.
Depending on how most people are using social media, it is habitual enough to spill over into other areas of their lives. Hence, the resultant behavior is problematic & dangerous, examples such as checking social media while driving.
The behavioral pattern for most of the people around social media may be annoying rather than dangerous, but it still indicates towards a societal problem. We should curb this addiction now before it becomes an epidemic & there are steps needed to be taken while social media addiction is still in its nascent stage.
Steps One Should Take:
- Minimize use of mobile devices in workplace settings unless necessary.
- Small but effective steps like not using your smartphone while driving.
- Check our daily practices which can impact our mental health even though they don’t place us in the way of direct bodily harm.
- Better policies should be in place to monitor the loss of productivity in both the workplace and educational settings, employers, schools and colleges so as to ensure that people are focused on their required tasks and activities.
- There are a lot of schools that have banned the use of smartphones in the classroom.
- Certain restaurants provide discounts to customers who refrain from using their smartphones during a meal. Such positive reinforcement strategies may well be the way forward in trying to decrease time spent checking social media which further results to the increase in time spent engaging in real life.
- Digital literacy & awareness of the effects of excessive social media use needs to be embedded in our work settings & educational institutions.
- Although controversial, but social media operators like Facebook can identify excessive users by using their behavioral data & provide strategies to limit the time spent on their products.
- Treatment is warranted for those who are genuinely addicted to social media but since this disorder is not formally recognized, it is highly unlikely to be funded by medical insurance or national health services.
- Those in need of treatment are likely to need the services of centers that specialize in such treatment. Such facilities aid young people addicted to video games, Internet, social media & more.
For this type of addiction, the ultimate goal of treatment should be controlled use rather than abstinence which is unlike many other types of addiction.
It is simply not feasible to prohibit someone from accessing all smart devices given the connected world we live in. Traditional Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most successful type of treatment for online addictions, although its efficacy in relation to social media addiction has been examined by relatively few published articles. More research is needed to develop more and better solutions to what is likely to be a problem growing in nature.
There is no magic potion. It is up to the individuals as they are ultimately responsible for their own social media use. But a part has to be played by policymakers, social media operators, employers, researchers, health care providers and educational establishments in reducing excessive use of social media, the “opiate for the masses.”