Social media addiction is a real thing—and the fact that a lot of people think it is not only makes it worse. They don’t consider it a problem at all. It’s just something people do nowadays. But it does have a heavy toll on people, individuall, and as a society.
In this article we’re going to focus on the effects it has on individuals, and leave the part about society aside.
Causes of social media addiction
It’s not by accident that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and SnapChat are worth billions of dollars: They’re deliberately engineered to exploit the way our brains work. A lot of the top-level people who work on “growth” have one objective: make the app more addictive. And these are very smart people who have a lot of resources and a team of very smart people at their disposal to help. If you think that’s exaggerated, just watch this video, which shares talks from some of the people who worked on these social networking apps:
As you can see, the causes of social media addiction are simply that these apps are designed to tap into our neuro-chemical reward systems. The teams developing these apps really do know how to trigger a dopamine response in your brain. (Samsung even released a phone in 2018 that has no access to the internet especially for students who want to avoid online distractions.)
Here’s what Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, said not too long ago:
“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them … was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’ That means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments. It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators – me, Mark [Zuckerberg], Kevin Systrom on Instagram, all of these people – understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.”
So far for the bad news. Exploiting the way our brains work to “increase engagement” is ultimately what makes these companies valuable for their shareholders.
The good news is however that ultimately we are in charge of our own brains and can take control of what we do with them. And recognizing that you’re addicted to social media is the first step in overcoming the addiction. Once you have the awareness that it is a problem, you can take the next step and find a solution.
Hypnosis is a powerful way for social media addicts to develop a more healthy relationship to social networks. After all, the goal doesn’t have to be to completely stop using social networks. It’s simply to use it in a responsible way that does not have a negative effect on your life.
Social media addiction facts
- 24% of teens go online “almost constantly” (2015-this number has more than likely increased in the past 3 years).
- users aged between 15 and 19 spend at least 3 hours per day on average using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. [source]
- 18% of social media users admitted that they cannot resist the urge to check out what’s hot on social media. [source]
- 28% of people who have iPhones check their accounts on Facebook or other social networks right away after waking up in the morning [source]
- The more frequently people go on Facebook and update their status the lower their self-esteem. [source]
- Spending a lot of time on Facebook is related to low self-esteem. [source]
- Social media platforms are using intermittent variable rewards to make their apps more engaging and addictive (according to a former Google designer) [source]
Here’s a video that explains what intermittent variable rewards are:
Social media addiction symptoms
There is no exact “checklist” or test to tell you whether you are a social media addict, but here are a few questions that can give you a good idea how serious your social media addiction is:
- Do you check social media first thing in the morning when you wake up?
- Do you constantly check notifications from social media apps?
- Do you feel a strong urge to immediately view the content of notifications from social media apps?
- Do you obsess over “likes”, “comments”, and “shares” of your posts? Do a lot of likes give you a feeling of elation, and does a lack of likes make you feel down?
- Do you compare yourself and your own life with the life other people display on their social media accounts?
Hypnosis for social media addiction
Hypnosis can help you break the cycle of social media addiction and be more centered. Rather than compulsively having to check your social media accounts, you can use them in a productive way and enjoy the benefits they bring to your life. You can stop obsessing about how others react to your posts, and what they think of you.
Even Y Combinator founder Paul Graham, one of the most widely respected and influential people in the land of startups, wrote back in 2010 already:
Most people I know have problems with Internet addiction. We’re all trying to figure out our own customs for getting free of it.
I’d be curious to hear his thoughts on the subject now, when social networks have become so much bigger, and make up so much more of what our daily lives are like.
Social media can be a wonderful tool, and it’s a technology that you can use to better connect with people. But it’s important to practice healthy habits and not let social media use you.
Again, the point of this post is not a call for us to go back into the woods and abandon technology. It’s about learning to master technology, instead of it mastering us. And even some of the worlds most prominent thinkers in tech agree. Here’s what Apple CEO Tim Cook said: “I don’t have a kid, but I have a nephew that I put some boundaries on. There are some things that I won’t allow. I don’t want them on a social network.”