Social Media Is Our New Drug Of Choice

Image Credit: The Huffington Post

Does social media impact your life negatively, either from your own use or that of someone else? The story that immediately comes to my mind is one from a friend. She was dating someone for a number of months, and he was perfect in almost all respects; young, smart, attractive, and successful. He had a talent for owning the room every time he spoke. One problem: he was chronically attached to his phone—while driving, at dinner, and in bed. This put a huge strain on their relationship. The problem reached its boiling point when he sat opposite to her dad over lunch, glued to his phone, during his first time meeting her family.

Turns out, social media is a drug. Users crave more and more of that quick fix of mental excitement each time they reach for their phone, tablet, or computer. A group of researchers set out to study the negative effects of internet addiction on the developing brain. They took 17 adolescents who were clinically diagnosed with Internet Addiction Disorder (yes, this is a very real thing) and 16 control adolescents to compare their brains for abnormalities. The results show damage in the same areas you would expect to find when looking at the scan of someone struggling with substance abuse.

The addiction manifests itself in a number of ways: compulsive gaming, watching videos or clicking through articles to the point where it severely impacts productivity, feeling more comfortable in chat rooms and cyber dating instead of forming and maintaining real life relationships, spending unnecessary money shopping online and gambling, and the list goes on…

I’m guilty of checking out what’s trending or watching YouTube clips when I could be using my time more wisely. But for me, it’s more of a relaxation after a long and (hopefully) productive day. I feel like my use is in check, but from now on I’m going to be much more aware of how many times per day I reach for my phone, or how many new articles I bring up after nonchalantly skimming through the last one.

Sources/further reading:

Abnormal White Matter Integrity in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder: A Tract-Based Spatial Statistics Study

Dopamine and the reward system

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