Have you ever been unable to get off Instagram in the middle of the night and thought, “Am I addicted to social media?” I honestly think I asked myself that question twice last week alone. Not to completely age myself, but I vividly remember a time before the existence of smartphones when the only thing I’d ever look at my cell phone for was a phone call from one of my friends about what time we were meeting at the mall. Now, I find myself looking at my phone seemingly millions of times a day. I never really considered myself “addicted” to social media, but the more I’ve read about it, the more I think I could certainly be leaning that way, if only for the fact that I check it constantly throughout the day.
In discussing this type of addiction, let’s begin with this: How is social media addiction defined? According to Judi James, a TV behavior expert and author, in an article for the Mirror, addiction to social media means “being unable to stop using it even when you want to.” James went on to note that this addiction can become clear when social media has “encroached on or even replaced your normal social life.” Who’s most susceptible to it? According to Dr. Joanne Stephenson, a psychology professor, it’s interestingly enough extroverts who are letting social media become an addiction. Dr. Stephenson said, “it's an extension of people interactions for them.”
How can you tell this is a problem that resonates with you? Here are nine signs you might be addicted to social media to guide you in whether you need to put your devices away and start living your true social life.
1. You Rarely Stop Checking For Notifications
For someone with social media addiction, one of the first things you’ll do when you wake up in the morning is check your social channels. In fact, sometimes you’ll even wake up in the middle of the night to check your phone for updates and to see who’s “liked” your latest picture or status. Then, this urgency to check up on your notifications continues all day. According to Dr. Stephenson, specifically this means feeling the need to check social channels many times a day — or even many times an hour. Before you know it, the day has passed and you’ve spent a large portion of it on social media doing seemingly nothing.
2. You Spend At Least Four Hours A Day On Social Media
To give that “large portion” threshold mentioned above a solid number, as a good rule of thumb social media addicts will spend about four or five plus hours on social media in a given day, according to Neil Vidyarthi, managing editor of AdWeek’s Social Times blog. Vidyarthi suggested people try to limit themselves to one or two hours per day, max.
3. You Can’t Have A Single Thought Without Posting It
Thinking of making chicken for dinner? You’ll post a Facebook status about it. Just went for a run and now you feel super energized? You’ll post a selfie with a related caption. Disgusted by something a celebrity wore on a red carpet? You’ll tweet about it. There basically isn’t anything you won’t post, to the point that everyone who’s socially connected with you likely knows a great deal about you (even those people you barely remember from high school). If you can’t eat a meal without posting it somewhere online, this also is relevant to you.
4. You Feel Truly Sad When People Aren’t Paying Attention To You Online
Perhaps you posted a picture on Instagram and it got a grand total of one “like.” People with a healthy relationship with social media might laugh this off, but those who are social media addicts will likely feel truly, deeply saddened about it. According to New York Magazine, getting “likes” feeds our neediness, and that alone can be addictive.
5. You Have Mini Breakdowns When Your Phone Loses Internet Connection
A moment without Internet connection? You’d rather be dead! If you find yourself completely losing your mind if you’re unable to log into our of your social media accounts for a short period of time, it’s possible your love of social media is more like an addiction.
6. You Have A Really Difficult Time Completing Tasks At Work
Due to your constant desire to check what’s happening on social media, it’s preventing you from accomplishing the things you need to complete at work. Social media is distracting, so of course you’re going to find it difficult to get anything done when you’re regularly reading other people’s statuses or browsing through endless Pinterest boards for wedding ideas. If lock your phone in a desk drawer for a day and find you’ll accomplished a lot more than usual by day’s end, it’s likely social media is the culprit for your distraction at work.
7. You Ignore Your Friends And Family
This is one of the most telling (and detrimental! signs of social media addiction. Do you notice that even when you’re in the same room as your loved ones, you can go hours without listening to anything they’ve talked about, simply because you’ve been on your phone the whole time? This is super embarrassing to admit, but I clearly remember a time recently when I made a Snapchat story of me and my friends having what appeared to be the greatest time ever. Then, though, I ended up ignoring them the rest of the night because I kept checking to see who had viewed the story. If you’ve experienced anything like this with any of your social channels — or simply find yourself checking up on other people’s social media accounts instead of interacting with the people who are physically around you — you might be dealing with addiction.
If any of these signs of social media addiction seem relevant to you, it might be time to put down that cell phone, hide your tablet and laptop, and start being actually social. It may seem really difficult to do, but once you get used to not spending so much time on social media, you’ll realize how amazing life is when you have the ability to actually spend it with other people — live and in the flesh.