Addictive Social Media Behavior Compared to Substance Abuse
Staying connected to friends and family has never been easier in our digital world. Thanks to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook we can learn every detail of every day from every friend, acquaintance and relative in our social circles. With all of this constant connectivity at our fingertips, it’s easy to see how too much time can be spent on social media. But can you really become a social media addict?
Social Media Addict?
The Huffington Post recently shed some light on the possibility of this new age addiction and its potential link to substance abuse. A study by psychologists at the University at Albany found that social media can be addictive, affecting impulse control the same way substance abuse does.
Psychologist Julia Hormes, who led the study, noted that social media platforms such as Facebook can become addictive through various rewards like notifications, or the constant update to the newsfeed. “Not being able to predict when new content is posted encourages us to check back frequently,” said Hormes. “This uncertainty about when a new reward is available is known as a ‘variable interval schedule of reinforcement’ and is highly effective in establishing habitual behaviors that are resistant to extinction.”
Further research indicates that sharing information about yourself ignites the reward center of your brain. In addition to sharing information, another study done by the Freie Institute in Berlin showed that receiving positive feedback about yourself is also interpreted as a reward in the brain.
While research studies like these are striking, they are certainly not the first of their kind to show a connection between the behaviors seen in online addiction and substance abuse. In a 2011 study known as Unplugged, 12 universities around the world studied students who unplugged from technology for 24 hours. In an article about the study, The Telegraph reported that four in five students showed physical and mental withdrawal symptoms, including confusion and panic. Other MRI research has also shown similar brain changes in those who exhibit a lack of impulse control with internet usage and those who struggle with substance abuse.
Substance abuse and social media
In reference to the findings from The University of Albany study, Hormes toldThe Huffington Post that social media addiction really comes down to the brain’s reward system. “Many people think of addictions as involving ingested substances,” said Hormes. “However, if we think about addiction more broadly as involving some kind of reward then it is easier to see how behaviors may be addictive.”
While research shows a similarity between the behaviors and brain changes in social media addiction and substance abuse, it is certainly not a conclusive correlation between the two. Still, the similar patterns support the fact that addiction – any addiction – is a physical brain disease; it’s not any kind of choice made by the individual.
Getting effective treatment
As the research shows, addiction can involve a variety of substances or mediums, and they can all impact the life of the addict and his or her loved ones equally. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or alcoholism, The Watershed can help. Contact us today: 1-800-861-1768.Tags: causes of alcoholism, disease of addiction, Social Media