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Social Media Addiction

Are we addicted to our phones and social media?

Dopamine is the main chemical involved in addiction. It’s the response our body gives when we engage in a rewarding experience– like good food, meeting new people, a great song, anything that gives you that happy hit– and keeps you wanting to come back for more.

In Dopamine Nation, Anna Lembke discusses how, in the modern age, we are vulnerable to dopamine-associated addiction. According to Lembke, the addictive subject of choice isn’t just alcohol or drugs– it’s the internet and social media.

Humans are wired for connection. It helped us form tribes that safely moved together, to care for our young, to essentially keep us alive. So we’re hardwired to receive that dopamine hit as an incentive to create more relationships with those around us.

But what happens when most of that is done digitally?

We end up teetering close to the edge of overconsumption. When we log onto the internet, but especially social media, we get an insane flood of dopamine to the brain (similar to heroin or alcohol). We’re stimulated by the new images, 30-second videos, things whizzing and moving past our eyes at an insane speed. So of course we keep coming back for more with a hit like that. The problem is when we log off: all that dopamine empties out and we’re left feeling, well, kinda crappy.

Then there's novelty. Dopamine is triggered by our brain's search-and-explore functions, telling us, "Hey, pay attention to this, something new has come along." [X]

Obviously, everything is in moderation, to an extent. Don’t feel awful for indulging in a bit of social media scrolling, checking in on family members, or liking that cute picture of a dog. However, our brains were never equipped to handle the onslaught of information we can receive. So, there’s no shame in using social media, but try to notice when it starts to become too much.

Here are some signs that you may be overusing social media:

  1. Anxiety, agitation, or anger when you cannot check social media.

  2. Interrupt conversations to check social media.

  3. Lie to others about how much time is spent online.

  4. Withdraw from family and friends.

  5. Lose interest in other activities.

  6. Neglect school or work in favor of social media.

  7. Experience negative impacts on your personal or professional life.

  8. Feel stressed that your