It was reported by The Independent recently that research by the University of Warwickshire found that in their study found in their study that prolific Facebook and Twitter users experienced withdrawal symptoms in an experiment where they stopped using their accounts for four weeks.
Users found that they felt isolated and alone, interestingly relationships with loved ones also suffered a communication breakdown as they primarily spoke with them online.
I use both Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis and have found a need to limit my time on social networking to avoid wasting hours using the sites, it’s very easy to see how someone could become addicted and feel alone if denied access.
Addiction is a compulsive behaviour which leads to negative consequences. For the social media addict their off line life will suffer as they become increasingly drawn to spending their days online on Facebook and Twitter. The addict will use social media excessively and for example spend hours trawling people’s pictures and become confused about their true identity and not the one they’ve invented online.
There are several symptoms of social media addiction such as spending over five hours per day on social media sites and becoming distressed and going into withdrawal if a site is not available. Other symptoms include neglecting commitments or personal well-being in order to devote most of your time online.
It was recently reported by Euro News that researchers at the University of North Carolina found that a lack of ‘likes’ on Facebook or re-tweets on Twitter caused anxiety in the social media addict. It was also found that when posts are ‘liked’ or re-tweeted dopamine is released in the brain.
The first step in recovery from social media addiction is to admit you have a problem. Currently there are no 12 Step support groups for social media or internet addiction but breaking the denial and asking for help is a good place to start.
Secondly seek support (not online!) set up an appointment with an addiction’s trained counsellor who can support you in the process of your recovery and healing from your addiction. You will need to plan your recovery and if this will mean total abstinence from social media.
Thirdly start to look at re-building your off line life, this means meeting up face to face with people and looking at other activities which you can enjoy. At the time of writing there are no publications which deal specifically with social media addiction, however “Hooked on the Net” by Andrew Caragea discusses internet addiction which has a similar process.