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Fact or Fiction? Can Excessive use of Social Media Contribute to Addictive Behaviors and Mental Health Issues?

Experts are finding a correlation between social media, addictive behaviors and mental health issues.

Photo © Reuse 2018 Corinne Isaacs-Frontiero 

Whether waiting to catch a flight, crossing a parking lot, or standing in line to pay for groceries we see it all too frequently: individuals preoccupied with cell phones either texting or checking social media websites. Be it Facebook, Instagram or Snap Chat social media has overtaken the American lifestyle. In an already predisposed addictive society experts set out to examine whether or not excessive use of social media can contribute to addictive behaviors and mental health issues.

CRC Health opines “The possibility of becoming addicted to social media sites is gaining more credibility”. This is particularly true of our younger generation. In fact, CRC substantiates this assertion with the outcomes of a recent study conducted by the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, Pennsylvania whose results disclosed “many students display signs of dependency that are comparable to drug or alcohol addiction.” The study encompassed the results of blocking student access to social media. The results of the study were extremely enlightening about just how much time young people spend on social media citing “… some of whom were checking Facebook 21 hours per day before the blackout”. In comparing social media usage to addictive behaviors the study disclosed those students “acted much like tobacco users who ‘sneak cigarettes’.” Here we see a correlation between the compulsive addictive behaviors of the social media “addict” and the nicotine “addict”. Both of which require a sustained need to feed or fuel an addiction.

Though modern technology has its benefits when it comes to sharing positive global developments over usage and a preoccupation with social media can lead to a “disconnect” and communication problems in that face-to-face communication is eliminated. Since essential cues such as body language, tone, and facial expressions are eliminated on social media, comments, posts or even “likes” are left open to being misinterpreted and misconstrued. This can lead to a lack of social skills comparable to the lack of social skills also found in individuals with mental health issues.

While individuals with cognitive and developmental barriers painstakingly struggle with successful social skills excessive use of social media can actually foster, reinforce or even promote mental health issues exacerbating personality traits such as narcissism and low self-esteem. Psychology Today shares the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale is linked to personality traits and is the first study to “tie-in narcissism and self-esteem” issues to social media and addictive personality traits. The study sheds light on the fact that “social media is an ego-boosting activity, which both narcissists and people with low self-esteem seek out.” The study further enlightens us:

Social media applications may serve as ideal social arenas for individuals who

appreciate and are attracted to engaging in ego-enhancing activities, as they

enable individuals to bolster their egos on the basis of instant feedback from

potentially large numbers of other individuals.

It is also noted social media is an enticing tool that avoids face-to-face interaction “to those with low self-esteem”.

In line with CRC Health’s proclamation that “The possibility of becoming addicted to social media sites is gaining more credibility.”, Psychology Today also warns:

There’s nothing wrong with getting an ego boost from likes on your photos

or funny tweets, but when you start craving that feedback more and more, it

may be time to reassess how reliant you are on the like button for your

happiness.

Further validation emanates from a recent study conducted by the University of Guelph that “showed people who spend more time on the site are more likely to report feelings of jealousy in their lives” as they compare the often inflated and glorified lives of friends, family members and even co-workers whose posts may, in actuality, be falsified. Bear in mind any one of these individuals may be fighting his or her own battle with narcissism or be overcompensating for low self-esteem. Be your issue social media addiction, narcissism or low self-esteem experts have clearly shown a correlation between the excessive use of social media and its’ ills towards contributing to addictive behaviors and/or mental health issues.

“Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master”. – Christian Lous Lange.

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