Yes, you can be addicted to social media

social media addiction

Guest post by {grow} community member Kaity Nakagoshi

For most people, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are harmless platforms that allow for social interaction and personal expression. For others, social media has become more than an entertaining form of engagement; it has become an increasing compulsion. The question is – can a person really become addicted to social media?

This is a notion that psychologists and researchers are beginning to address, and recent studies suggest that yes, social media addiction is real.

The Science of Social Media Addiction

The University of Chicago recently conducted one such study and found social media to be even more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. Addictions are, after all, about feeding a compelling urge, and one of the greatest human urges is the yearning to feel connected and a part of something larger. Nothing satisfies this particular urge like logging on and being social with the masses at any hour of the day or night. Desires for social media are difficult to control because of the easy-access availability of it, and because giving in to these social urges seems far less harmful than giving into drugs or nicotine.

Another interesting finding in the research was the correlation between low self-esteem and social network addiction. Being social online is easier for people who suffer from self-esteem issues, and within this group, an addiction to sites like Facebook and Twitter is much more easily formed.

Address Your Social Media Addiction

Are you guilty of checking your Facebook account before you even get out of bed in the morning? Do you tweet while on a romantic first date? You may think your own social media habits are harmless, but how do you know if you’ve crossed the line into an addiction?

One way to check yourself is to evaluate your feelings about social media. For instance, when you don’t have access to it, say while on vacation or at an event such as a wedding, do you feel anxious and can think of little besides what you’re missing online? Would it be an accurate statement to say that social media brings you the most pleasure in your life? If you answered yes to these questions, then it might be time to address your relationship with social media.

Don’t be a Victim

One of the best things you can do to reign in your addiction is to keep track of exactly how much time you spend on sites like Facebook and Twitter. It’s a good idea to schedule your social media time and stick to that schedule no matter what. Close down your web browsers and remove desktop/smartphone applications like Tweetdeck that could potentially tempt you. Use a good old-fashioned alarm clock so that your cell phone doesn’t linger by your bedside and keep you from precious hours of sleep. Essentially, you must be your own gatekeeper and make sure you’re getting the important tasks accomplished every day, tasks that actually grow your business.

On the Plus Side

The flip side to social media addiction is that it can have a positive effect on your marketing strategies once you know exactly how your own customers use social sites. Study your market and familiarize yourself with what kind of content your audience tends favors and how that content is generally shared. Most importantly, always acknowledge and abide by social media’s ‘golden rule’ – Never sell to your market. Instead, engage with them and serve them value, making sure to always be upfront and transparent.

It’s Okay to be “Anti-Social”

There is no doubt that social media will continue to shape the way we live and conduct our business online. In the midst of this, it is wise to remember that a little goes a long way, and sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. If it weren’t for my socially pumped iPhone complete with a Pinterest app, Facebook app, and Twitter app, I don’t know how I would survive doctor’s waiting rooms and long lines at the grocery store. However, as a die-hard Patriots fan, I willingly stayed clear of all forms of social media for an entire week post Super Bowl. To my own dismay, I did not suffer from withdrawals, so I think it’s safe to say that I am not addicted to social media, but I sure do like it a lot!

What is the longest you have gone without tweeting or checking your Facebook newsfeed?

Follow guest author Kaity Nakagoshi, on Twitter: @Kaity_Fl

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  • I found the correlation between low self esteem and use of social media the most troubling but also that perhaps social media can be utilized in a positive manner to create a social network and perhaps build self confidence. Thanks.

  •  I also find the link between low self esteem and use of social media interesting; actually, surprising.  Why do people do what they do?  I think being good at ‘what you do’ does build self esteem.  Enter KLOUT.  Social PROOF. Are you any good at Social?  Ask KLOUT.  Social media lends itself to measurement; a way for those with a ‘doubt’ to prove they are good.  Is there a parallel to body building here?  Social platforms and KLOUT algorithms==> dumbbells and mirrors? That said, I bet the correlation between those with high KLOUT scores and low self esteem is weak.  ‘Addiction’ has a negative connotation, yet by most measures people that are good at ‘what’ they do are addicts ‘to’ what they do (in some way). More and more people ‘do’ social, and some may suffer from low self esteem.  Maybe social is a way to rise from the ashes, for some. Oddly, my KLOUT score confirms (in my mind) that I don’t suffer from low self esteem! How poignant.

    Nice piece of work.

  • This article brings to mind an example of an individual I read about in Mark’s “Return on Influence” book who became popular on Twitter by tweeting hundreds of times per day. He was eventually rewarded for his ability to grow his network through avenues such as Klout. I believe he was invited to SXSW on an all-expenses paid trip as well as to countless other “high class” social events because of his citizen influencer status. It seems like we live in a society (at some level) that actually rewards this type of behavior, which to me, is frightening.  There are too many people who use social media that bring absolutely no value to it, that are clearly addicted. There are the people who spend all their time online because they think that the more friends they collect, or the more numbers they achieve, the somehow better off they will be. Unfortunately, I think that is a trap because this viewpoint puts social media as the focal point in someone’s life rather than using social media as an effective tool that fits into part of a larger strategy. It also reminds me of Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and the point that effective people should be principle-centered and not paradigm centered (such as boyfriend centric, work centric, church centric, etc.). By striking a balance between all areas of your life and keeping a focus on principles as a basis for decision-making rather than letting the whims of the day be your guide, you can be more productive, targeted, and meaningful in your actions. Being addicted to social media is about wanting control over your life, and hence, I believe it can too easily become just another form of addiction for people. Great topic!

  • First, I absolutely love the image used for this article. It is spot on!

    Second, most people today are addicted to social media in one form or another. For example, my husband says that he can’t stand social media and doesn’t even check his news feed for Facebook. However, he plays Facebook games and will leave his computer on all day long (idle) just to make his garden grow or anything like that. When he comes home, he goes to the computer to check his medieval towns and such. Yes, he is addicted.

    The thing is that we have to remember the human engagement factor. It’s so much easier to get lost in a virtual world where you aren’t being judged and all your problems go out the window. But, is that truly the way we want to live? 

    It’s a deep question that many of us should be asking ourselves.

  • I am so thrilled that this post has generated so many wonderful comments. Mark, your audience is awesome! 🙂

    I was a little apprehensive to write this article because I wasn’t sure if people would “get it”. But in all reality, social media has completely altered the way we live our daily lives. It really is incredible. As with anything, there are pros and cons to this virtual social platform, but it is up to us (the users) to control it, and not let IT control US.

  • Also, I agree with Shannon 100%! The image that Mark found/created to accompany the article is perfect!

  • Great picture and article! I’ve found myself several times saying “Aw, shoot I really should have made that tweet chat. Prime time for engaging and building my network..” or I squirm in my chair when I’m working on something and I purposely avoid Twitter to focus.  But I don’t check it on weekends. And it feels…amazing! 

    We just need to remember that social media is an ongoing stream. Once you get off or away, it’s going to keep on buzzing wildly. But no sweat –  you’ll always be able to jump back in.  

  • Rebecca Todd

    Great article! To me, this connected to a recent TED: Connected, but alone: Thanks for sharing! 


  • Anonymous

    Great point about the “principle centered over the paradigm centered, Tiffany, and a good way to identify quality over quantity.  Your value should be measured by the quality of your contributions, not the number of tweets or followers.  I suspect that principle centered interaction is less susceptible to addiction, though I would love to connect with such an addict as I am sure that I and others would be the beneficiaries of many principle centered nuggets of knowledge and insight.

    More on topic addiction is never healthy as it is a sign of excess and there is always a neglected part of life, usually one’s friends and or family – if you are unsure about a potential addiction, ask them first.

  • Kaity,

    I enjoyed your article. Although I’ve been guilty of the occassional twitter binge and I’ve topped out on my Linkedin group count, I believe I could quit anytime I wanted to. I just don’t want to.

    Seriously though, I’ve had a definite sense of withdrawal whenever I’ve been too busy for social media for extended periods. So I think you are correct and true addiction may be possible.

  •  Thanks Billy. I share your feelings exactly. I don’t think I’m addicted to social media, but I don’t want to give it up. It’s almost like asking a 60’s housewife to give up her microwave. That’s nonsense!

    I will say though, when I have children of my own, I will not allow them to text or tweet at the dinner table. That’s just bad manners. They will send their grandparents hand-written thank you cards in the mail after receiving a birthday check, but will also be able to Skype with them at least once a week. They will own a cell phone and a laptop, but they will also grow up with a fully stocked bookcase. If you ask me, that just seems like the best of both worlds – old and new. 

  • For me, It’s okay to get hooked on Social Media, but also remember limitations. I guess, it’s true that most of the people today are highly addicted to it, because of the pleasure it gives to people nowadays. But, Social Media has a brighter side too. It’s just unnoticed by people who are using Social Media just for Socializing. 

  • It is very easy to be addicted to anything. I was addicted to the internet in the mid-1990s. It captured my time instead of being in college classes. There were no studies at the time proving the addiction and how to cure it, so my grades plummeted until I noticed and gave a damn.

  • Hi, my name is Sookie and I am a social media addict. 🙂

    I do have to admit the first I do every morning, is log into my Facebook account, just to keep myself updated with what’s going on for the day. To be honest, I actually discovered that Michael Jackson passed away from Facebook! Long live Facebook!

  • For myself, I look at it now as a tool to engage with my readers. Don’t get me wrong, I check in to look at everything, but I do know my limits. I have a schedule of when I need to be on it and when I don’t. I think the problem is that some people might think that if they don’t log online they will miss what was being said, when they can easily go back and read later. 

    My time is limited with a day job, my blog and my family, but my family comes first no matter what. Kaity, excellent post!

  • klafave

    Hi , I am new to your blog and really like your content.  I have a savings and deals blog and I also do product reviews and giveaways.  I came across your post about ethical bloggers and was intrigued. I have a question for you as well.  What is your take on social network ranking systems such as Alexa and Google page rank?  I know a lot of companies take these numbers very seriously when approving requests for reviews etc.  but I am not so sure of their significance or even reliability. 

    As a product review blogger, my reviews sometimes depend on these numbers. I am truly perplexed by this because even if a blogs so called rankings are not up to certain standards ( and it is a heck of a time even trying to get information on these standards) does that really mean that the blogs reach is stunted?  I myself have a loyal following of readers and fans on facebook and twitter, have many sites linked back  to my site, and have content that is relevant to my readers, yet my google page rank, which went from 3 to 0 overnight, keeps me from getting bigger or better opportunities.  When I inquired to google about my rank drop (incidentally, my Alexa rank gets better and better everyday) I was basically told to investigate it myself.  The one hint they gave me was that I had used  google follows as an entry in a giveaway ( which most bloggers do) and it is against google policy which I did not know. ( google policies seem to be as hard to find as a needle in a haystack).  Why do companies put so much stock in ratings, especially google page rank?  Day after day, I read about or hear about google being in trouble or an unethical practice they are involved in, yet they are highly regarded as social network experts.  Any insight you can provide would be much appreciated.

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  • Hey Kaity,
    How interesting to see that studies have now proven what I predicted two years ago and wrote about in an article called Social Media – Addiction or Healthy Lifestyle? I wrote it mainly because I felt like I was addicted, but then I decided to use social media for business purposes so I’ve turned the addiction into just part of the marketing mix for myself and my clients!

    Great post! Thanks,

  • Anonymous

    Do you think Klout fuels social media addiction at all?
    Also, I went with out it for three weeks while in Europe once and a few times for a week while in Mexico.

    – Jenny Pollock


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  • Pa Ul

    5 Signs That I am a Social Network Addict my also be beneficial in addition to the above.

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  • The thing is that people are too trustful in what media is telling them, In this case social media. They are too lazy to question the information they find and people they “meet” on the internet. We should focus more on our face to face contacts and the old school way of socializing and understanding things…Maybe that is the problem in our society. We don’t want to be old school, we want to be on top of technology and with the biggest hypes. We don’t want to read, we prefer to watch, we don’t want to talk, we prefer to chat…
    I don’t know if it sounds to optimistic but I believe that this period is coming to an end because more and more people are staring to realize that and articles like this prove it.
    See you in the future 😛

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  • Valentina Ramirez

    As a teenager I may ensure most of teens ( which indeed represent most of social media addicts), do have a relate relation between addiction and self esteem, everypost or social post create an placebo effect as if we received a candy. Most teens want attention and would do anything for it. they also like to be engage and popular what a better way that showing what you do, what you have just as fb teach us

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  • Anonymous

    I walked away from social media a long time ago because:
    1. It was was wasting my time
    2. Getting in the way of my school work
    3. Too drama goes on when someone does agree with your posts
    4. Employers can blacklist you for obvious reasons
    5. It was me narcissistic in some ways
    6. My high school friends & colleagues didn’t seem to like me very much

    Social media can be addicting. And like every addiction, it comes with consequences. The day I deactivated my Twitter, Facebook, & LinkedIn accounts was the I felt FREE

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