How do you know if social networks are affecting your health and how to limit their use
Many of us start and end our day by scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or TikTok. The world’s most used social platform, Facebook, recorded a record of nearly 2.93 billion active users in the first quarter of 2022, while TikTok crossed the one billion user mark in September 2021.
Earlier this week, a new study identified some of the behaviors that could constitute “TikTok addiction.” An analysis by experts from the University of Trinidad and Tobago looked at data from 354 college students (173 TikTok users and 313 Facebook users) and found that TikTok can encourage compulsive behavior and app dependence.
Users of both systems were asked to fill out a questionnaire that evaluated six criteria. This included whether they had obsessive thoughts about TikTok or Facebook and whether they felt an increased need to use the platform.
Participants were also asked if they used social networks to forget about personal problems and if they tried and failed to reduce the time they spend on the platforms.
In addition, they were asked if they were concerned when they could not use the platforms and whether the use of the platforms had a negative impact on school or work.
Those who scored the highest in all categories used TikTok extensively. While it was found that most people (68.2 percent) were not at risk for TikTok addiction, 25.4 percent were at low risk and 6.4 percent were at high risk of addiction.
While social media is an ideal way to stay in touch with family and friends, and has proven to be particularly useful during a pandemic, experts have raised concerns about how it can negatively impact people’s mental health.
Mental health charity Mind has warned that being “constantly bombarded” with people sharing news of new jobs, relationships or vacations can lead to low self-esteem when comparing ourselves to others.
UKAT (UK Addiction Treatment Group), a private addiction treatment company, said it had seen a “real increase in the level of online community adoption”.
“We know this because we are dealing with people because of social media and internet addiction, and we have seen first-hand an increase in the number of people we treat with this disease since 2020,” says Nuno Albuquerque, UKAT’s Principal Treatment Adviser.
While some people may find that spending time on social media can negatively affect them from time to time, others may experience a more serious addiction to social media that has a lasting impact on their daily lives.
Signs that you may be spending a lot of time on the Internet
It helps to think about your relationship with social media and think about how you feel.
“If you are upset or feel the need to keep checking your profiles, it could be a sign that you are spending a lot of time online,” Albuquerque says.
Albuquerque adds that one of the main signals is how a person feels when they are offline. Are they in a bad mood due to the absence of social networks? Perhaps experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and insomnia? “
“Understanding how they feel when they are not on social networking sites is a great way to determine if a person’s relationship with them has become unhealthy and potentially addictive.”
Symptoms of social media addiction disorder
Experts believe that social media addiction disorder can be as harmful as substance abuse. It can not only affect personal well-being, but also have an impact on relationships with friends and family.
Some symptoms to watch for include feeling anxious or angry when social media platforms are down or your Internet connection is slow.
People at risk for addiction may become increasingly isolated from spending time on social media, performing poorly at school or work, and showing a lack of interest in their relationships.
strategies to deal with
independent Talk to a variety of experts about strategies that people who believe they are at risk of social media addiction might want to explore to deal with the problem.
Watch your time
Jess D’Cruz, Mind’s Director of Information Content, recommends making time each day to do something offline.
This could be something as simple as reading a book, exercising, being out in nature, or trying a relaxation technique.
Several studies in recent months have pointed to the mental health benefits of spending time outdoors. In October 2021, research from York University found that being outdoors led to better moods, more positive emotions, and less anxiety.
Some people may also find it helpful to create specific time windows during which they are allowed to use social media.
This can help limit the amount of time you spend using them and make you more aware of how you use each app. Some smartphones make this easy. For example, Apple allows users to set limits for certain apps, which can be done through our phone settings.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of notifications you get from social media apps, Apple also has a “downtime” feature that mutes notifications as well as phone calls and select apps.
Notice your feelings
Experts encourage all social media users to be aware of their feelings. If you think social media may be having a negative effect on your feelings, simply writing it down or writing it down can help identify triggers.
“Think about your mood after spending time on social media. If it’s still low, it shows that social media use is not self-care,” says Dee Johnson, an addiction therapist at Priory.
“Try going for a walk, then go back to thinking about your mood and maybe you will notice that your mood has gone up a bit. Rate your mood on a scale of 1 to 10 so you can compare the effect of different activities.”
“Track your mood this way, because writing it down will give you strong evidence of the impact your social media use has on you.”
Spend time with friends and family in person, or develop a new hobby or skill
Johnson says social media addiction can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, shame, guilt, depression and self-loathing.
Experts recommend prioritizing spending time with loved ones and building healthy offline relationships. This can help counter feelings of low self-esteem that occur when a person compares themselves to others online.
In addition, this physically takes the focus off social media and provides a sense of satisfaction offline.
The experts also highlighted the importance of developing self-confidence. They recommend trying a new hobby or learning a new skill that has nothing to do with technology. This can boost feelings of contentment, build self-esteem, and act as a distraction from social media.
Be kind to yourself, and seek professional help if you need it
“Sometimes people avoid dealing with painful issues and use social media to distract them, but in the end it makes them feel bad,” Johnson says.
“Don’t use negative self-talk. Be good to yourself. Always remember that you are not alone with this.
For those who struggle to implement healthy coping strategies, experts say it’s best to seek help from a professional you can talk to about your problems.
“Seek professional support to talk about your problems, because the more you avoid them, the more difficult it becomes over time,” Johnson adds.
Anyone affected by the issues in this article can call the Mind Information Helpline at 0300123 3393.
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