How to Spot the Signs of Addiction to Social Media

In India in January 2021, a report stated that there were 448.0 million social media users, with the number having increased by 78 million (+21%) between 2020 and 2021. 

Today, tapping into social media has become about as habitual as brushing your teeth. It is estimated that Indians spend an average of about 2.36 hours on social media daily. And if your profession includes using social media then it’s often longer. And as smartphone usage grows, and the number of internet users reaches a staggering 658 million (about 47% of India’s total population), so does access to the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. But at what point does it become an addiction?

What is addiction?

An addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it can be harmful to you. This means addiction can just as much be related to social media as it can to alcohol, drugs and nicotine. 

Social media usage 

Nearly half the population of the world now uses social media. That’s a whopping 3 billion people. Yet how often people use it, what they use it for and how it affects their lives varies hugely.

  • On average, people spend over 140 minutes a day on social media.

  • Internet addiction is thought to affect some 210 million users.

  • 95% of teenagers have a smartphone and 45% say they are online almost constantly.

Five signs of addiction to social media

The first step in seeking help for any addiction is to recognize it. Here are some common signs of addiction to social media, so you can watch out for them:

1. You feel anxious when you cannot access social media.

2. Reaching for your phone before you get out of bed in the morning.

3. You check social media while making dinner or performing other tasks, so it’s eating into your work time.

4. You tentatively monitor your posts to see how many likes you get.

5. Struggling to have face-to-face conversations as using your digital device is more comfortable.

The impact of addiction

Once you’ve recognized a social media addiction, it’s important to consider the detrimental impact it is having on your life, as this can give you the motivational boost you need to start making a change. This might include:

  • Feeling low and depressed. Research suggests that young people who spend over three hours a day on social media are more likely to experience mental health problems and poor sleep.

  • Lower self-esteem. Studies show too much time on social media can tarnish your self-esteem, as you constantly compare yourself to others.

  • Poorer quality relationships. Being addicted to the screen can mean you spend less time with your friends and family, resulting in a decline in your relationships.

  • Productivity. Social media can be a big distraction, quickly diverting attention away from work or study. Coupled with poorer quality sleep, this can impact your career progression and sense of fulfillment. 

Help with social media addiction

The good news is that there is plenty of social media addiction help and advice available, from professional support to tools you can use yourself. For expert help, clinics and hospitals worldwide are starting to offer programs. Insurance providers such as Future Generali offers mental health coverage included in their health insurance products. So seeking professional care for mental health issues stemming from such addictions does not have to rack up huge bills. 

At home, there are many apps you can use to help kick the habit. For example, apps that block social media usage and other digital distractions can quickly lure you into browsing your social networks. Check out Offtime, Freedom and AppBlock. If you manage social media for your job or business, factor in the time you’ve already spent online and make rules for home use, such as no social media after a certain time of day.

Meditation and mindfulness and even exercise can also be really valuable, as they help to focus your mind and bring you into the moment. Next time you’re on social media, why not swap your browsing time for some quiet meditation? Take a look at Dhyana, Headspace and Calm.