Social Media Addiction

Hearing the word addiction triggers most of us reading this to think of drugs, alcohol, and perhaps outliers such as gambling or pornography. Being in the healthcare field, it is natural to first think of substance abuse.

The Lanier Law Firm recently introduced us to another addiction problem, Social Media Addiction, which started in the early 2000’s. Until I went to their website I was unaware there was such a thing as social media addiction lawsuits. According to information on Lanier’s webpage, in 2005 just 5 percent of Americans used social media. In 2021 that statistic jumped to 72 percent of Americans who had active social media accounts. Another interesting tidbit was that by 2027 nearly 6 billion (yes, that is a B) people worldwide are expected to use social media daily! 

Technology in Society, Volume 50, posted an abstract written in 2017 estimating over 210 million people worldwide are addicted to social media.

Shop Owner, an online auto magazine, posted an article in April of 2019 (April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month if you did not know) citing a new survey finding 55 percent of U.S. drivers admit checking social media while driving.

In an October 2020 article from Healio  Jamie Zelazny, PhD, RN cited a study which stated that teens who reported using a social media site more than 2 hours a day were much more likely to report poor mental health outcomes like distress and suicidal ideation. That same article mentioned another study suggesting social media use among teens is linked to low self-esteem, poor body image and risk-taking behaviors. Although anyone is vulnerable, young teenage girls appear to be the most at risk.   

Anxiety when away from social media for extended periods of time, spending less time with friends and family, checking social media first thing in the morning, changes in mood, behavior, and overall health, struggling at work or school, and changes in personality are a few signs of possible social media addiction. With suicide being the second-leading cause of death in young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), it is hard to ignore the correlation between the rise of social media and the increase in teen suicide rates. Mental Health is another hot topic in the world today and the connection with this problem and social media should not be ignored. 

We all know that putting chemicals into our bodies can change the chemistry of the brain and therefore we practice good prescribing habits and test patients for drugs and alcohol. Now we know the chemistry of our brain is also affected by social media engagement. The longer one engages in social media, the higher the chances for their brain chemistry to be altered enough to create compulsive behavior around social media. Although this may not be in our face as much as drug addiction, we cannot ignore this insidious problem!

Lance Benedict

President/CEO of Industry Lab Diagnostic Partners