In the digital age, social media platforms have revolutionized the way we connect, communicate with each other, and consume information. From Facebook and Instagram to Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok, these platforms offer unlimited opportunities for social interaction, entertainment, and self-expression. 

Social media certainly has its benefits. It allows us to stay in touch with loved ones and friends, no matter where they are on the globe. You probably enjoy some aspects of social media yourself, and it feels like everyone you know is using it, too. 

However, with the growth of social media usage comes the concern of social media addiction. Addiction to social media is just one form of digital addiction. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with it so it doesn’t take hold of your life. 

Understanding Social Media Addiction

Social media addiction is also known as social media dependency or problematic social media use. People may lump it under the general category of digital addiction or technology addiction. It can also be a form of internet addiction, since social media is a type of internet use. 

Social media addiction refers to a compulsive and excessive engagement with social media platforms. This level of use leads to negative consequences in various areas of an individual’s life. 

For example,  a teen who is addicted to social media might spend hours per day browsing highlight reels. The teen may get in arguments with parents related to his or her social media use. The teen is likely to neglect chores, homework, and other responsibilities because of time on social media. 

Not everyone who uses social media has an addiction. In fact, it’s possible to use it daily without problems. Social media use can become an addiction when it comes with negative consequences and interferes with other areas of life.

Is Social Media Really An Addiction?

Maybe you’re just not convinced that social media can become an addiction. After all, everyone seems to be on social media platforms. 

Social media isn’t always an addiction, but for some people, it can be. Researchers acknowledge that social media use can become addictive. When it does, it reduces life satisfaction and causes problems with productivity and relationships. 

It is pretty well-accepted that overuse of social media is a concern. In fact, researchers have developed special standardized scales to measure symptoms of social media addiction. 

How Common Is Social Media Addiction?

You might be interested in learning how common social media addiction is. It’s difficult to determine the exact number of people affected by problematic social media use. However, researchers have tried to estimate the proportion of people who experience this problem.

A global study found that 17.42% of people experience signs of social media addiction. If you’re struggling with your social media use, you’re not alone.

Social Media Addiction

In some studies, the prevalence of social media addiction isn’t quite as high. A study conducted with U.S. adults ages 18-25 found that 3.42% met criteria for social media addiction.

Different prevalence rates can be found in different studies. This is because researchers can measure social media addiction in different ways.

In addition, some countries may have higher rates of social media addiction than others. So, global studies may show different results than those conducted just in the U.S. 

Regardless of variation in prevalence rates, there is evidence that a proportion of the population experiences social media addiction. 

Causes of Social Media Addiction

If you’re struggling with excessive social media use, there are several factors that could be causing this behavior. If you get to the root of the problem, it’s easier to figure out how to resolve the issue. 

Below are some of the top causes of social media addiction: 

  • Instant Gratification: Social media is an instant source of satisfaction and pleasure. Every like, comment, and share boosts your mood and keeps you coming back for more. Social media use can trigger the brain’s reward center. This causes it to release a feel-good chemical called dopamine, which keeps us scrolling. 
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): If you log off of social media, you might be worried you’ll miss something important. Fear of missing important updates or highlights can cause you to compulsively check your social media platforms. 
  • Peer Pressure: No one likes to feel like they aren’t fitting in. If everyone around you is constantly on social media, you may feel pressured to follow suit.
  • Escaping Reality : If you’re feeling stressed or lonely, it’s easy to turn to social media. It’s an escape from daily life, and it allows you to connect with others. 
  • The Algorithms: Social media algorithms are designed to keep you hooked. They display personalized content, chosen because it appeals specifically to you. This content easily catches your eye, keeping you clicking for hours. 

Negative Effects of Social Media Addiction

When a person develops a social media addiction, they are likely to experience a variety of consequences. These are discussed in more detail below. 

  • Mental Health Problems: Excessive amounts of social media use can take a toll on mental health. Researchers have found that teens who use it excessively are at risk of mental health problems. This can include depression, psychological distress, and suicidal thinking. 
  • Sleep Problems: Everyone needs good sleep to feel their best, but social media can interfere with a good night’s sleep. In teens, higher levels of social media use are linked to poor sleep quality. Staying up late to scroll through your timeline can stop you from getting the rest you need. 
  • Negative Body Image: Viewing perfectly cropped and edited images on social media can worsen body image. This is especially true if you’re spending excessive amounts of time comparing yourself to others. Individuals prone to eating disorders can be particularly negatively affected by social media apps. 
  • Impact on Relationships:  When you’re spending all your time on social media, relationships can fall by the wayside. You might begin to withdraw from others, which can cause poor communication and conflict. 
  • Decreased Productivity: Spending excessive time on social media can result in procrastination, distraction, and worse performance at work or school. This can interfere with your long-term goals. 
  • Cyberbullying and Online Harassment: Global research shows that teens and pre-teens who use social media excessively are at risk of bullying. Social media platforms provide a setting for bullies to remain anonymous. Young people can also connect with strangers online, and they may not have good intentions. 

Signs of Social Media Addiction 

So, how do you know if you or someone you love is struggling with social media addiction? It’s essential to take a look at signs and symptoms.

One important fact to remember is that social media addiction isn’t a diagnosable mental problem, at least not yet. Mental health professionals use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to diagnose mental health problems. The DSM does not yet include social media addiction as a diagnosable condition. 

However, it does include substance use disorders, which are addictions to drugs or alcohol. The DSM also includes one behavioral addiction, called gambling disorder. The experts who write the DSM have labeled internet gaming disorder as a condition requiring further study. 

Gambling disorder and internet gaming disorder are considered addictive disorders, because the show features similar to other addictions. For example, they both involve compulsive behaviors and inability to stop. Social media addiction is similar as well, involving loss of control over social media use.

Based on what we know about various types of addiction, we can expect social media addiction to look like other forms. Some common symptoms linked to social media addiction include:

  • Being unable to reduce social media use, even when there is a desire to do so.
  • Spending so much time on social media that other areas of life are neglected.
  • Experiencing conflicts in relationships because of social media use.
  • Having a hard time fulfilling duties at work, home, or school because of time spent on social media.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, like sadness, agitation, and anxiety when separated from social media.
  • Continuing to use social media, even when it’s making mental health problems worse.
  • Needing to spend longer and longer amounts of time on social media to experience the same level of satisfaction. 
  • Giving up other hobbies in favor of social media use.
  • Feeling a compulsive drive to use social media, as if you’re actually craving it. 
  • Using social media in dangerous situations, such as when driving. 
  • Losing track of time on social media, so you’re spending much longer time on it than intended. 

A Case Example of Social Media Addiction 

The signs and symptoms above point toward social media addiction,  but it’s also helpful to have a real-life example.  Consider the case below:

Sarah is 16 years old, and like her friends, she has various social media profiles. What started as one Facebook page to stay in touch with friends has expanded. Sarah is now on TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram. She spends up to 10 hours per day posting content and checking her social media apps. 

Sarah loves the feeling she gets when someone likes or shares a post she’s made. She lives for positive comments, and becomes upset when someone gives her a negative comment. When Sarah isn’t able to be on social media, she feels anxious and upset. She lashes out at her parents when they make her turn off her devices at bedtime or to do chores. 

Sarah used to be on the soccer team, but she has dropped out of the sport. She no longer plays or trains, and she’s given up friendships with most of her teammates. Her grades are starting to drop, because she is neglecting homework and studying. During the school day, she cannot concentrate in class, because she’s constantly checking her phone and scrolling through her newsfeed. 

Despite her drive to use social media, it’s no longer bringing Sarah much satisfaction. Her mental health is starting to decline. She feels like she can never get as many likes or comments as she desires. She is now struggling with low-self esteem

Sarah’s parents recognize the problem, and they’re considering taking her to a counselor to assess the issue. 

Addressing Social Media Addiction

When social media creates problems, there is help and support available. There are things you can do on your own to reduce social media use. Sometimes, it is also helpful to work with a professional to learn coping strategies. 

  • Digital Detox: When social media use is excessive, it helps to give yourself some detox time. This could mean taking a break for a week or two, and then resuming with moderate use.  You can also consider detoxing at certain times of day, such as after 9 p.m. 
  • Setting Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries and limits on social media use. This includes setting time aside for offline activities, and logging off during specified times. For example, meal times, as well as when you’re at work or school, should be free from social media. Check your platforms during lunch time, and then put the phone away. These boundaries will reduce screen time and limit overuse of social media. 
  • Digital Literacy: If you’re a parent of a teen, it’s important to educate them about online safety and responsible social media use. Warn them of the dangers of excessive use, and monitor their online activities. 
  • Encouraging Face-to-Face Interaction:  It’s important to make time for face-to-face interaction. You can use social media, but you should also interact with people in-person. Be sure to balance time on social media with face-to-face activities. 
  • Support Networks: Local mental health centers and community agencies may provide support groups for people struggling with social media use. You may also be able to find virtual groups, where you can connect via video conferencing. These groups provide you with social connection and allow you to learn from others experiencing the same struggles. 
  • Professional Treatment: For those struggling with social media addiction and underlying mental health problems, professional treatment can help. A counselor or therapist can help you develop stronger coping skills and explore the reasons behind your social media addiction. A specific type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is especially helpful. It can help you change irrational thoughts linked to social media habits, which promotes changed behavior. 


In today’s digital world, teens and young adults are at risk of becoming addicted to social media. Once addicted, mental health and well-being start to decline.

Fortunately, there are solutions. You can learn the underlying cause of your excessive social media use, and then take steps to overcome it. 

This doesn’t mean you’ll have to give up social media altogether. By using a balanced approach and setting limits, you can enjoy social media in moderation. 

If you’re struggling with social media use, a self-assessment can be helpful. This tool allows you to determine whether your use is problematic. It will also give you valuable information about next steps. 

Explore the extent of your social media usage and its impact on your life with this detailed online self-assessment: social media addiction test.














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