Addicted to the click; A look at social media addiction and how it affects our lives
Updated: Jan 16
It is no secret that social media has taken hold of our every day lives. New platforms are constantly popping up and gaining traction even when we thought the marketplace was already saturated. It started over a decade ago when Facebook stepped in and started targeting loyal Myspace users, who soon joined the social network which dominates today. Ah yes, remember good old Tom, our first digital “friend.”
Well, you know how the story goes. We slowly traded our top eight and snazzy Myspace profiles, which we spent hours formatting to be just the right amount of obnoxious and self-expressive, for the more streamlined and at the time “grown-up” seeming Facebook. Then came the likes of Twitter, Reddit, Snapchat and Instagram. I still remember when I made the leap myself from Myspace to Facebook, slowly but surely updating my Myspace friends less and less as I gained new connects on Facebook. I’ve always been a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to change, so as I cautiously weaved my way through each of the newer platforms, albeit with a bit of distrust for the new best thing, I eventually converted to using the newer apps over older ones.
Now, my dilemma begins with the fact that I, being someone who tends to stay stuck in my ways longer than necessary, found it quite laborious to make the switch each time. I still haven’t even given TikTok a shot for this reason. I mean, for christ’s sake I just got the Instagram stories thing down pat less than a year ago. Surely, I’ll end up immigrating over to that too in due time. I did just that with Snapchat which I only have distant memories of nowadays. One thing, however, remained constant in my social media pilgrimage; I couldn’t quit it. Not only had I formed an actual addiction, like so many have to what social media is today, but I didn’t even realise the true extent of my problem. Hello, I’m Jenna and I’m a social mediaholic.
“What’s so important on your phone?” We’ve all said it, or had it said to us, perhaps over a dinner table or when sitting around friends at a social gathering of some sort. We usually simply laugh it off and set our phone down for a bit. Only a bit though, because without even realising it we tend to grab our little gadget and check what new notification just popped up. So there again we are drawn back into the black mirror. It’s become a drug of sorts, and I don’t say this lightly. Whilst it has been hinted at many times that this is the case, especially in studies involving children and electronics use, in media reports, I stand by saying it is absolutely a drug and one that is highly addictive.
I never denied my constant use of the social media platforms I enjoyed so much. Facebook, my gateway platform, though I had graduated to the likes of Twitter and eventually Instagram, never far from my mind. I checked even when no notifications appeared. My conversations many times started with the phrase, “Today I saw on Facebook.” I was spiralling and I didn’t even realise it because it has become so commonplace in our society that attaching the word addiction to it simply makes us feel like shit. But I finally came to see just how hard of a grasp my addiction had on me.
As someone who has dealt with both mental health and addiction issues, this was a hard pill to swallow. I always knew my addictions as substances that I took. As a dually diagnosed person would at times blame my bipolar disorder on my tendency to be excited and even obsessive over social media. I received slight ridicule here and there for using my phone at dinner and such, but we aren’t talking intervention level stuff here. It wasn’t until I recently spent time at an inpatient facility for my declining mental health that I recognized just how similar my social media usage was to substance abuse. During the day, each weekday whilst in therapy I was required to lock my phone away until evening time when therapy finished. I experienced extreme anxiety for the first couple of days, even attempting one day to hide during the time everyone put their phones in their lockers. It was that day I realised just how similar my attachment to my social media connections was to any other addiction.
As I was slowly weaned off my attachment to my phone, mostly due to not having access to it all day, I began to see just how much time had been wasted checking my newsfeed obsessively. It was evident in the multiple messages I received asking if I was okay, as I had not posted in a while. I slowly was relieved of my anxiety attached to having my phone in my hands at all times and knowing what everyone else was doing, or letting them know what I was up to as well.
It is in our nature to want to connect, however are we really connecting when our daily lives become so set on our screens? Obviously this is no new or ground breaking notion, but I challenge you to look at your social media and phone usage as a drug, just as I have. Even if only until you finish the end of this essay just consider that it may possibly be more than a distraction, but an addiction. All the same signs of an addict are present to many of us who just can’t quit our phones. When we don’t have access to our phones, just like an addict without access to their drug of choice, we experience anxiety, agitation, and sometimes even fear. Perhaps you don’t fall on this spectrum and are indeed a responsible social media user who can easily manage and limit their time spent clicking about. However, for many of us we weren’t even aware we may show signs of this addiction because it has become so acceptable and commonplace in our society. The first step however, is admitting there is a problem.