I was recently reading an article on Sky news that social media users were encouraged by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in the UK to cut down on their social media use. According to this article, thousands of people have committed to a ‘scroll free September’ and pledged to quit the ‘big five’ (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram) for a month. The RSPH seem to have similar initiatives that encourage lack of drinking in ‘Dry January’ and no smoking in ‘Stoptober’.
When not used in excess social media have a number of benefits including improving social connections, gaining information and providing social support. However, according to this organization, extensive use of social media can lead to anxiety, negative body image, poor sleep and ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out). Moreover, there is a possibility that social networks become more of a distraction rather than a connection. Due to the fact that it is so easy to access these platforms through our smart phones, we might scroll through these apps as a matter of habit. There might also be a biological component in these interactions which makes looking at our phone addictive. Searching through at our ‘notifications’ and ‘likes’ might activate the dopamine system because it combines our desire to be approved of and our sense of excitement. However, as human beings we need to find meaning and self-expression in face to face interpersonal relationships and digital technology cannot serve as a replacement.
How do I realise that I am becoming too attached to social media?
- Be aware of what’s happening inside you. Are you feeling restless and anxious? Do you need to check your phone every five minutes for new information and messages? Are you exhibiting addictive qualities to the use of social media? Can you switch off your internet for 24hours and be ok?
- Do I have a passive relationship with technology use? Has it become a habit? Do I scroll through each app on my phone first thing in the morning and last thing before I sleep?
If we feel we are becoming addicted to social media having a digital detox might help. Switch off your internet during the weekend and connect more to the ones closest and dearest to you. Put your phone on airplane mode for a couple of hours a week and use it only when you decide to. Technology should enhance our inner selves not alienate us from what is happening inside and around us.
Anna Catania is a counsellor with Willingness. She has had a special interest in working with clients facing intimacy and sexual difficulties and runs a service for families going through cancer and chronic illness. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.