How much time on average do you spend on social media each day? Do you find yourself scrolling through Instagram for hours? Or do you constantly check how many likes or views your post is getting? If this is your situation, then your use of social media may reflect some signs of social media addiction.

The Addiction Centre explains that social media addiction is a “behavioral addiction that is characterized as being overly concerned about social media, driven by an uncontrollable urge to log on to or use social media, and devoting so much time and effort to social media that it impairs other important life areas.”

The challenge to beat up boredom during the lockdown pushed millions of users to get creative, learn how to cook, sign up for free yoga classes on Zoom, and watch almost every movie available on Netflix. Some of these daily activities that we used to do in classes or public spaces are now part of the digital world and it is hard to detach ourselves from our phone or computer.

In the last decade, the use of social media has been continuously changing and growing at a fast rate. It can have many positive impacts, such as the possibility of connecting with your loved ones who live far away or connecting with people anywhere in the world. But in some cases, the wrong use of these platforms can have adverse effects not just in our behavior or social life, like ignoring real-life relationships or responsibilities, and it could even have harmful effects on our mental health that could lead to depression or anxiety.

How Social Media Affects the Brain: The addictive use of these platforms is primarily related to its effect on our brains as each notification or like we receive triggers the release of dopamine, which in turn makes us feel good on a chemical level. This reward mechanism encourages us to connect, even more, having a similar effect as that of being addicted to drugs.

Be aware if you or someone you know is repeating most of these common behavioral signs of a social media addict:

1. Checking all your social media platforms right after you wake up or spending a lot of time in bed scrolling: If your morning routine consists of endlessly procrastinating while scrolling through Instagram to see what you have missed after your hours of sleep, this is a clear sign that you may be addicted to social media.

2. Feeling anxious when you don’t have internet connection: If you feel anxious when you cannot check in real-time how many likes you received in your recent Facebook post, not even for a few minutes or hours, this is a sign you should not ignore.

3. Checking if you have new notifications all the time: Do you anxiously check the number of likes you receive? Have you even imagined the notification sound? If this is your case you should become aware of this situation as it can also be a severe sign of addiction.

4. Checking and updating everything you do: If you feel the constant need to update your status, location, or sharing everything you eat or do, this behavior may be interfering with your daily activities.

5. Ditching your hobbies and responsibilities: Do you like to go for a run? Do you like to read or paint? You should spend your free time doing things you love, so if you have lost interest in your hobbies or responsibilities and now you prefer to spend hours watching TikTok dances instead of studying or exercising, you need to reprioritize.

Also, be aware of the mental symptoms of social media addiction:

1.You don’t feel satisfied with your life and feel constant jealousy: Sometimes it is hard not to compare ourselves to others, especially if they are enjoying delicious pasta in Rome or partying in Ibiza. It is even more concerning if you are unhappy or comparing yourself to highly photoshopped and unrealistic bodies or faces. An extreme feeling of jealousy can turn into depression and other mental health issues.

2. You feel anxious: Some people who are addicted to social media have difficulties engaging with others in the real world, they prefer to rely on their smartphone and computer for social interaction because they may have low self-esteem or need the reward of approval that the social networks provide with likes and shares. As dopamine feeds your addiction, this mechanism results in even more anxiety if you lack the reward.

3. Fatigue and Stress: The continuous hours spent endlessly scrolling, checking and switching from one app to the other can lead to fatigue, stress and even blurry vision or headaches. We are bombarded with messages, posts, videos from so many different apps like TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, to name just a few of the most popular ones. Besides, if you are used to checking your cell phone before bed, this can disturb your sleep quality.

Here are some useful suggestions on how to control social media addiction: The first step is to recognize this problem and address it with care and commitment. This list intends to serve as a guideline that can help you regain control of your life

1.Turn off notifications: Notifications act as a reminder, so if they are making you anxious, you should turn them off if they are not necessary. Get rid of apps you don’t use anymore and unsubscribe from unnecessary mailing lists.

2. Limit how much time you spend on social media: Learn to set boundaries. For instance, you could decide to spend a limited amount of time on each platform. It is also important to limit the place and time of use of social media; it would not be appropriate to check them on your work hours as this reduces productivity. Apps like Moment can help you organize your time and restrict the time you spend on a social network.

3. Do things that make you happy: Use all that time you usually spend on social media for activities that bring you joy like spending time with your friends and family or going for a walk.

4. Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with your friends, family and coworkers as they can help you stop and identify when you are spending too much time on these platforms.

We are social beings, so the lack of face-to-face interaction will eventually make you feel lonely. Social media can bring a lot of benefits, but we should be careful and never underestimate the power of these platforms; it can influence our lives for better or worse. Pay attention to the warning signals and reflect on your actions every day, don’t judge yourself but pay attention to your feelings and behavior. These simple tips can help you improve the quality of your life and your loved ones.

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