Everywhere you go you see people on their phones, iPads, iPods, laptops, watches, or whatever they choose to use to connect to others through social media. Connecting to others is a healthy and vital activity plus social media has been proven to release dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is known as the “happy hormone” which is responsible for our feelings of pleasure and it motivates us to do more of what we love. Sounds all good, right? Well, there are many studies out there which talk about the negative effects on mental and physical health from engaging in social media. Feelings of isolation, jealousy, envy, sadness, and low self-esteem can stem from comparing ourselves to others. Sitting for long periods of time is linked to conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancers, breathing problems, digestive problems and other diseases. By sitting for more than two hours at a time, you increase your risk in higher blood pressure, higher levels of blood sugars, excess body fat, higher cholesterol levels, ulcers, and the list goes on and on.
So if we enjoy social media a little too much, we run the risk of poor mental and physical health including addiction. Would you be interested in knowing if you or someone you care about is “addicted” to social media?
Then take the following quiz which is a list of 11 symptoms which are criterion for patterns of “usage” which could indicate addiction:
- Do you “use” more and for longer periods of time than planned or intended?
- Have you ever tried to cut down or quit with several unsuccessful efforts in doing so?
- Do you spend a great deal of time trying to get it, use it or recover from it?
- Do you have cravings or urges to use it?
- Do you have difficulty in fulfilling your obligations at home, work or school because of it?
- Do you continue to do it even though it’s causing interpersonal problems?
- Do you give up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of it?
- Do you use it in physically hazardous situations or keep doing it over and over even when it puts you in danger (i.e. being on social media when you’re driving)?
- Do you continue to do it even when you know you have a psychological problem (such as anxiety or depression) or physical problem (such as high blood pressure) that is either caused by it or made worse by doing it?
- Do you have a tolerance to it? (You need to do it more and more to get the same effect).
- Do you have withdrawal from it when you’re not doing it and it can be relieved when you do it again? (i.e. having anxiety and it goes away when you check your social media).
If you answered yes to 1 symptom, this is a sign you likely don’t have a problem with social media. However, if you answered yes to 2-3 symptoms, this could indicate a mild problem. If you answered yes to 4-5 symptoms, your problem is considered moderate and if you answered yes to 6 or more symptoms, you likely have a severe problem. This quiz can be an eye opener for making some positive changes for yourself; consider it an exciting time to start focusing on yourself by increasing self-care and concentrating more on your loved ones.
(Shawn Meier, MRC, LAC, NCAC II, SAP, is a counselor at CHI St. Alexius Health Employee Assistance Program.)