Is Social Media Addiction a Real Thing?


Carly S.

As the years go on, so does the popularity of social media. With new platforms being created every year, this phenomenon isn’t going to fade anytime soon. As of 2021, about 82 percent of Americans have at least one social media account – that’s approximately 223 million people. With that being said, around ten percent of Americans experience an addiction to it.

What is Social Media Addiction?

Social media addiction is categorized as a behavioral addiction that involves being overly concerned about social media. Those affected by this addiction experience uncontrollable urges to use social media and spend so much time on it that it begins to affect other life areas, such as school or work. Although this isn’t a life-threatening issue, it consists of the same traits as those of any substance use disorder. Such traits include mood changes, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and relapse.

How Does Social Media Affect the Brain?

Because of the effect it has on the brain, social media is considered to be both physically and psychologically addictive. Studies have shown that the whirlpool of likes, retweets, and shares received on social media triggers a chemical reaction in the brain. According to a recent study by Harvard University, using social media platforms ignites the same part of the brain that lights up when taking an addictive substance. Because of this, neuroscientists often compare social media usage to a shot of dopamine being injected directly into one’s system.

How Do You Recognize a Social Media Addiction?

Most people who use social media don’t necessarily have an addiction to it. Signs of a social media addiction include spending excessive amounts of time on social media, feeling urges to use it more and more, using it to forget about personal problems, trying to reduce usage without success, becoming restless or troubled if unable to access it, and performing poorly at work or school. If you or someone you know experiences these signs, they may be addicted to social media.

This addiction will most likely become more common in people of all ages due to social media’s constant spike in popularity. However, children, teenagers, and young adults have the highest risk because their brains are not yet finished developing.