Social media addictiveness

Kimberly Valle, Staff Reporter

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The accessibility to social media platforms has made it easier for students to dedicate a large portion of their time to online activity. For some students, excessive use can lead to addiction-like symptoms.

“Because these students are spending more time on social media and not on their studies, they experience a decline in their academic performance leading to a decline in grades,” said Jorge Marquez, psychologist at the University Counseling Center.

Researchers have found some behavioral similarities between excessive Internet use and substance abuse such as tolerance, withdrawal, failed attempts to cut down on usage and impairment in daily functioning. More research must be done before social media addiction can be considered a distinct diagnosis.

“Not everyone who uses social media heavily is addicted to social media, but unfortunately, we have seen cases where an addiction to social media has turned fatal,” Marquez said.

Marquez also said that when students are using social media excessively to disconnect from their emotions and escape their responsibilities or problems, an addicting behavior can begin occurring.

Alexia Guillen, junior pre-nursing major, said she uses social media every day, mainly for school events and to promote her ballet recitals. She said it can be a distraction.

“It affects time with my family. I have noticed that when I am at home, my mother is constantly telling us to put our cell phones away,” Guillen said. “I also see it affecting us by lack of communication and understanding of one another.”

Certain behaviors associated with social media use lead to changes in the brain that are seen in drug use.

“The immediacy and reward associated with social media can be thought of as a ‘quick hit’ and would be expected to result in a minority of users experiencing addiction-like symptoms,” said Dr. Adi Jaffe, director of research, education and innovation at Alternatives, a national addiction treatment program, on thefix.com.

Janet Moreno, junior criminal justice major, said too much use of social media could lead to sleepless nights.

“I stay up all night just on Instagram and Twitter. My fingers and hand start hurting,” Moreno said. “I try to control it as much as I can by keeping myself busy. If I am not busy, social media is what keeps me entertained.”

Excessive use has been shown by studies and articles to lead to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. In tragic cases, where social media involved stalking or cyber-bullying, the result has sometimes been suicide.

There are a couple of things to look for when the use of social media is getting addicting. For example, impairment in the person’s functioning, such as academic, occupational or family relationship impairment. Distress and how different or extreme the person’s use of social media compared to other users and the amount of time someone is spending on social media in comparison to other activities an individual needs to attend to are also symptoms.

Applying effective time-management strategies can help college students keep their social media use to moderate levels and be helpful in balancing other responsibilities that are common among college students.

“Having effective time-management skills can positively impact a person’s emotional well-being because stress levels can be managed,” Marquez said.

There are a few ways to reduce the use of social media distraction. For example, a college student can work on tracking the time they spend on social media platforms or online, reach out to friends and family members by directly contacting them or spending time with them, reduce procrastinating on assignments and tasks, reduce the number of apps on smartphones and spend more time outside without their smartphone.

“One of the most important things that has to happen is for a student to recognize that athevy have a problem with social media use and be open to addressing it,” Marquez said.

The University Counseling Center offers unlimited, free and confidential counseling services to address students’ mental health. It is located in room 202 in Union West.

Kimberly Valle may be reached at [email protected]