Is Social Media Addiction a Problem?

  • Posted at Sep 26, 2013
  • Written by yellowbrick

Yellowbrick social media addiction, source: Shutterstock

Checking in on Foursquare to rave about restaurants or sharing a few photos with friends on Instagram plays a role in the lives of young adults. Young adults and social media go hand-in-hand, as the majority of young adults dab into virtual life thanks to websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.  While some productive social media use changes life in a good way, like landing a job via Linked In, the misuse can quickly turn habitual and even lead to social media addiction.

Symptoms of social media addiction

Young adults using social media on a daily basis does not necessarily qualify as having a social media addiction.  Social media addiction involves unmanageable and sometimes risky behaviors.  What constitutes a social media addiction?

  • Losing track of time from spending endless hours a day on social media sites.
  • Interference with daily responsibilities like work, school, and family.
  • Failure to manage social relationships.
  • Preference of virtual relationships to real-life, face-to-face relationships with friends and family.
  • Isolating one’s self from others to continue using social media.
  • Lying about or hiding social media use from family, friends, or colleagues.
  • Using social media while driving.

The effects of social media addiction

Social media addiction poses a threat to the self-esteem of young adults.  Addicted to social media, young adults rely on the number of “likes” they receive from their posts and pictures. This trains young adults to look for outward acceptance instead of building confidence in themselves by pursuing personal strengths and interests. Without gaining the expected or desired recognition on posts and pics, young adults addicted to social media may become disappointed to the point of depression.

Virtual environments often involve bullying. Unwarranted, misconstrued, and derogatory comments from “friends” users may barely know affect how young adults addicted to social media view themselves and their interests.  Anxiety, stemming from negative feedback and news feeds, may accelerate prior vulnerabilities and undermine maturational development as virtual relationships replace actual time spent with peers.


  • A college student developing PTSD, loses focus to study and becomes scared to go to class, due to absorbing continual posts covering a shooting that occurred at another university far from their school.
  • A young man becomes severely depressed and unable to control his rage as he constantly peruses his ex-girlfriend’s profile, tracking her new relationships.
  • A young woman binges on large amounts of food after receiving hurtful comments about her physical appearance on her newest profile picture.  She then purges in hopes to lose weight.

Withdrawal is painful

Healthy coping skills, in response to life’s daily stressors, like practicing yoga or playing music, are replaced by addictions.  When faced with challenge, addicts use harmful substances or practices. Like an addiction to alcohol or heroin, social media addiction warps the addict’s ability to function without it. While an alcoholic or heroin addict suffers apparent physical withdrawal, often requiring hospitalization, withdrawing from social media addiction may incur feelings of anxiety, panic, depression, and isolation.  The severity of anxiety or depression from social media addiction withdrawal may require formal treatment.

Ditching social media addiction

Social media addiction may be reduced to a manageable level of social media use either at home or with professional assistance, depending on the intensity of the addiction.  Strategies for maintaining social media use at home include:

  • Spend time building in-person relationships versus online relationships.
  • Stick to a set amount of time to use social media.  Set a timer if needed.
  • Keep a log of your social media use. Include time spent and the reason for usage.
  • Turn smart phones off while driving.

Young adults, severely addicted to social media and unable to carry out daily demands, benefit from programs like the Substance Abuse Services at Yellowbrick, where carefully trained Addiction Specialists support and guide addicts through individual sessions as they come to terms with their addictions. Yoga and art therapy give young adults the opportunity to develop healthy coping skills and partake in activities away from digital devices.  In-person social relationships replace online relationships through group programming.  Social media addicts have positive outcomes and achieve personal and social balance when they welcome professional help.

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