Is There Such a Thing as Spending Too Much Time Online?
Over the past decade, social networking has transformed the world. Although social media use is a relatively new phenomenon, early research studies are showing that it has already been evoking changes in basic aspects of human behaviour. As a result, suggestions have been made that prolonged use of social networking sites might be linked with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders.
This topic is controversial, and additional research needs to be completed to understand the true connection between social media use and mental health disorders. But, most industry professionals will agree that social media has been proven to have detrimental effects on mental health. At the same time, people who use it excessively demonstrate addictive tendencies.
How Can Excessive Social Media Use Affect a Person’s Health and Wellbeing?
It seems harmless to pull up your favourite social media app and check in on what your friends are doing. And most times, it is harmless. But, there are various ways that excessive social media use can have an impact on wellbeing and overall health. Some of the dangers include:
- Contributing to the Development of Addictive Behaviors: In many instances, social media use meets specific addiction criteria, such as escapism, mental preoccupation, neglect of personal life, concealing the behaviour, and more. The websites and apps are designed to keep people coming back, making it hard to break the trend after the pattern has been created. These addictive tendencies can contribute to mental health issues.
- Triggering Existing Mental Health Disorders: If a person is already prone to mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, then it is possible that consistent use of social media could trigger symptoms of these disorders. Social media use can result in social isolation, making it harder for people to get a face-to-face connection that is needed to support mental health concerns.
- Encouraging Unhealthy Social Comparisons: Scrolling through a social media feed gives everyone the perfect place to form judgments about other people they see online and compare themselves and their own lives. Not only can jealousy develop, but the social comparison can also decrease self-esteem and increase the risk of depressive symptoms.
- Difficulty with Concentration and Focus: Social sites deliver information in short snippets, which is changing the way we communicate. These disrupted patterns can lead to a deterioration in concentration. Some professionals have suggested a connection with social media use and the development of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Identifying the Signs of Social Media Addiction
There are a few signs that you can watch for to identify whether you or someone you love is addicted to the internet and social media:
- Turning to social media as the preferred leisure activity
- Difficulty concentrating on other activities or tasks
- Social anxiety when interacting with people in face-to-face settings
- Irregular sleeping patterns
- Higher levels of stress after using social media
- Suppressing emotions with consistent social media use as a distraction
- Reaching for the phone first thing in the morning
- Feelings of anxiety or stress when no WiFi or data connection is available
- Compulsively checking the phone to see the number of likes or shares
- Daily activities revolve around the posts that are made on social sites
- A need to update Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for every activity
Symptoms of addiction vary depending on the person. But, if you suspect that there is an addiction, then it might be time to start a conversation with an addiction recovery expert.
Steps to Overcome a Social Media Addiction
If any of the above factors apply to you, then you might think about taking a break from social media to see how you feel. Regardless of your level of social media use, it is important to monitor your time spent online and set healthy boundaries. Set daily limits for the amount of time that you spend on social media sites. Consider the option to create accountability with a family member, friend, or counsellor so that you can monitor your progress.