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Written by: Ashlee Cantrell

Through apps and sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, social media allows us to stay connected! Humans are naturally born with a social drive to communicate and connect with others, and this is especially true for young people. Connection is good for your well-being and your mental health, but is there such a thing as too much? With the recent pandemic, it seems that almost everything has become digitized including the social lives of teenagers. Because of this, the more social media a young person participates in, the more likely they are to experience a stimulating effect of addiction to social media. But don’t worry! Let’s look at some effects of social media and tips for avoiding these effects.

Effects of Social Media

Surprisingly enough, social media has quite a large effect on the brain, especially the teen brain. The teen brain is the second-largest period of growth for the brain, which means that it is one of the most important parts for building social skills, intelligence, and other skills. However, that also means that it is very susceptible to addiction during the teen years. What does that mean? It means that overuse of social media can sometimes cause the brain to rewire itself and develop a dependency on feeling like it constantly needs to be on social media or cannot be without it. How else can it affect the brain? Social media provides us with almost instant gratification every time; getting an immediate text back, being able to search for what we want when we want, laughing at TikTok videos all night, etc. Finding enjoyment from social media is a good thing, however, this becomes a problem when the brain becomes used to too much instant gratification for too long. This can sometimes lead to addiction because the brain’s reward system is releasing too many “feel good” chemicals, also known as dopamine. For some social media users, it triggers a rush of dopamine in the brain, causing a need to continue the cycle repeatedly. Can you think of other ways that social media might affect the brain?

Are You Addicted to Social Media?

Being able to appreciate social media is a benefit that you deserve to enjoy. However, once that appreciation goes too far, it may become dangerous. Feeling as though you might be affected by the negative effects of social media can be scary. You might feel anxious or concerned about your risk of being addicted to social media. How do you determine if your brain may be at risk?

  • Spending a lot of time thinking about social media.
  • Feeling an overwhelming need to be on social media or to pick up your phone almost all the time.
  • Using social media or phone to forget about personal issues.
  • Often being unable to control or contain the use of social media.
  • Becoming restless easily without having social media or a phone.
  • Getting in trouble at school or work for being on social media or the phone.

If you find yourself meeting any of these criteria, it’s okay. There are ways to care for oneself and enjoy the benefits and connections that social media allows. Let’s talk about it.

Tips for Avoiding Addiction to Social Media

Social media is everywhere, which means that it is not easy to just give it up altogether. The urge to use social media and be connected to others at the tips of your fingers is there is most of us. There is no harm in this habit, as long as it is not harming us. So, how do we ensure that we keep this habit from harming us in the short and long term? A digital detox! A digital detox is an agreed-upon time when you, your friends, and family members agree to put all devices away to concentrate on your conversations and activities and be present with each other in the moment. How do we do that?

  • Turn off social media notifications. I’m sure you’ll still have the urge to check your apps throughout the day, so missing a few notifications won’t hurt.
  • Stick to one device at a time. If you’re using your computer, put your phone away and vice versa.
  • Use an actual alarm clock. Avoid using your phone as an alarm clock and go back to using a regular alarm clock. It’ll help you stay off your phone before bed!
  • Monitor the amount of time you spend on your phone. Most phones have an app that helps to monitor how much time you have spent on your phone. Create a setting to notify you when you have spent more than a reasonable amount of time on your phone. For example, only be on your phone for an hour during lunch.
  • DO NOT USE YOUR PHONE WHILE DRIVING. This should be obvious, but just in case it’s not, using your phone while driving has multiple risks from mental to physical risks. To keep your brain and your body safe, it’s best to put the phone away while in the car.

In summary, taking a general break from social media may be a valuable way to identify unhealthy habits, establish healthy connections with friends, and allow for self-reflection. If you find yourself relating to the information shared in today’s post, know that you are not alone. Upstate Restorative Counseling is here for you. Contact us today!