Have you found yourself increasingly frustrated with your usage of social media? Have you felt like the hours you spend scrolling on social media leave you feeling empty, depressed, or discouraged? If your relationship with social media has become a rocky one, you are not alone. Many users of mainstream social media platforms have found themselves down rabbit holes of endless scrolling, comparison, and self-loathing due to the messages and content being consumed through social media.
Why is it that a platform designed for connection, communication, and creation has become a breeding ground for issues such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem?
Understanding “The Scroll”
Social media has been designed to captivate and engage our senses, increase connection and exposure, and to act as a sounding board for creativity or expression. There is no denying that social media has optimized the way we consume information, marketed and tailored right towards our interests, to keep engagement high. We know this to be called the “algorithm”. The design of mainstream social media apps have been modeled after slot machines and other “high risk and unpredictable reward” games. The goal is to give you a stimulating and engaging experience. The algorithm pulls together personal interests, high valued accounts, and other content of interest to each personal user, and the result is a bottomless supply of content that keeps you guessing about what comes next.
This promotes the mindset of just one more scroll, “5 more minutes”, or “let me just go check what they posted”. Before you know it, you have found yourself scrolling through social media for over an hour, and your mind is racing with all kinds of thoughts.
Do I Show Signs of Addiction to Social Media?
Social media addiction can display in different ways, however it is most notably characterized as a behavioral addiction including: being overly concerned about social media, having uncontrollable urges to check or log into social media, and dedicating an excessive amount of time into social media which begins impairing other areas of daily life.
Changes in mood, higher levels of stress, intrusive thoughts, decreased self-esteem, anxiety and depression, that stem from social media use can also be a sign that the consumption of these popular communication tools are becoming harmful.
Changing Your Relationship With Social Media?
If you feel that your social media consumption has reached a point that it is impacting your mental health, desire to engage with others in-person, or you spend less time doing other activities; now can be a great time to re-address your relationship with social media. Although, we can all acknowledge the benefits of connecting with so many people with such ease, it can also be okay to take a step back from your online presence to focus on decreasing symptoms of distress.
Some strategies for changing your consumption of social media can include: setting limits on social media apps, leaving your phone plugged in while doing an activity or task, having a time of day where you do not use your phone, and setting your phone on airplane mode during work or school. If you feel you are overwhelmed with regulating your usage, it can be helpful to delete or remove social media from your phone for a set period of time to take a break from daily consumption.
Speaking to a therapist or mental health professional can also be a great way to process the signs, symptoms, and behaviors aligning with addictive social media habits.