By John Stran
“The Journal for Behavior Addiction” defines social media addiction as having an uncontrollable urge to use social media, which interferes with other life tasks.
What drives someone’s social media addiction may depend on personal characteristics.
Adam Earnheardt, chair of the Department of Communication at Youngstown State University, said people with addictive personalities are most likely to be media addicts, adding those with social media addiction tend to also have an addiction to something else.
Just like other forms of addiction, quitting or reducing time on social media can come with its own difficulties.
“There are withdrawal symptoms that people have, and those withdrawals really center on a fear of missing out,” Earnheardt said. “You feel like, if I’m not on there, I’m going to miss some important information or some story that the world is talking about, and I’m not a part of it.”
Throughout varying research articles, fear of missing out, or FOMO, is one of the few causes of social media addiction that is prevalent.
Joy Tang, assistant professor of psychology at YSU, referenced an article published in the “Personality and Individual Differences” journal, which claims that FOMO, attachment anxiety and avoidance can be causes of social media addiction.
Earnheardt experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to quit when he did an experiment himself, leaving social media for two weeks during one holiday season.
“I did it over Christmas because I thought I would want to be on Facebook to show pictures and talk about the holidays, and it would just be a time that would draw me to social media,” he said. “Initially, it was tough and there were withdrawal symptoms.”
Luis Almeida, professor of communication at Lee University in Tennessee, said he became so “burnt out” on technology, he stopped using it for five months.
Almeida realized the constant use of not only social media but technology devices in general had caused him severe anxiety and stress.
During his time away from technology, he created the Human Robot Cycle: a test that determines how often people use different devices such as a smartphone in a day.
What he found is some people may be beyond the level of addiction. He said when people are addicted to something, they generally are aware of their problem, but this is not always the case for social media addicts.
What Almeida believes makes a person’s overuse of different mediums so difficult to stop is the conditioning that has been placed on society, saying many people are forced or highly encouraged to use various social networking platforms, to an extent, for work and socialising.
Almeida and Earnheardt are both dependent on their social networking sites for work and spoke highly of current age technology and how it improves their ability to connect with different colleagues and peers, but they both know when the time to power down is evident.
Almeida advised people who want to reduce their time on social media to turn off any of their devices at least four times a day and begin to learn the benefits of social media moderation.
“Try to limit your communication online and try to communicate with people more offline,” he said. “Build a culture offline.”