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Addicted to social media?
Virtually everyone uses social media to connect and maintain contact with family and friends, and/or for career networking and professional growth. It's a very easy, fast, and efficient way to communicate--and since everyone is doing it, not doing so could cut you off from a lot of information and the opportunity for greater socialization or career opportunities. However, as the old saying goes; "Too much of a good thing isn't necessarily good." This is especially true when it comes to how much time and attention we devote to virtual relating and relationships. If you or someone close to you is raising a concern about their online habits, the following are four telling signs that you or they may have crossed over into addiction.
4 signs you are addicted to social media
Your online time is negatively impacting your job
You check your Facebook page several times every hour from work. You try to do it quickly, but often feel it is hard to pass up the opportunity to like something, comment, or share it with someone else. You worry that you might miss something, and when you are waiting for news about a friend, hoping for information about an ex, or anticipating details about an upcoming event--your thoughts are often not on your work even when you are not online. You know your supervisor would not be happy. There are rules in your workplace that govern when and how often you can take your personal "social media breaks." You exceed them but rationalize that everybody does and that if you try to keep it brief, it isn't really an issue for you. You are careful to look around at who is nearby and make sure no one can see what you are doing. However, you are concerned that someone might notice or may even be monitoring the time you spend online that is not work related.
You spend time online when socializing with friends, home with your partner, or on a date
Your iPhone goes everywhere you go, and unless you turn it off or put it on mute, you and whoever you are with know when a message is coming in. You hate to turn it off, and find yourself quickly checking it in the movie theater, when out to dinner, when out with a group of friends, and at home. You always apologize for the interruption and try to keep it short, but sense that some people aren't satisfied with that. If you are single and unattached, you are unsure what to do when you go on a date. The way you see it, they will have their phone too and will be OK with the occasional interruption as long as most of your attention is on them. If you are in a relationship, you expect the other person to accept your behavior as part of the package. You are friends with exes and chat or text with them from time to time and get upset if your significant other takes issue with this. You feel that they should just understand that your online relationships and interactions are important to you.
You consider your online "friends" real friends, and your online persona is different from your offline one
You have a lot of online friends. Many of these people were friends of friends and this is how you connected. Over time you have begun to feel as though you really know them and have a genuine closeness to them. They like your posts, often send supportive, funny, helpful comments--and you feel like they really get you and vice versa. You haven't ever suggested that you meet in person as you are all very busy, may live at a distance, and if you are being honest, you like things just the way they are. Maybe it is why you are more outgoing and fun with your online friends, are more comfortable sharing certain things with them, and spend more time conversing with them than with your roommates and other offline friends (who are greatly outnumbered by your online ones.)
You go through withdrawal when you can't get online
Not being connected is just not an option. If you can't get online, you don't want to go on that activity or trip, or spend time in that place with those friends or family members. You feel lost without the internet as it is where you not only socialize, but it's the way you spend most of your leisure time, watch movies and TV shows, catch up on news, and unwind and relax. You need a break from the people around you, and would go crazy without this outlet.
Technology is taking over our lives in small and large ways. Without even realizing it, many people have slowly upped their online time so that it fills their leisure hours, and begins to creep into the time they would be giving to work and family life. This is how any addiction takes over--it is insidious and often we don't know we have a problem until it has reached a point where it is having a negative impact on our health, work and relationships. If this sounds like you or someone you love, consider making a plan to unplug and to spend that time in face-to-face conversation, intimate relating with others, and being truly in the moment. You'll be amazed at the feeling of freedom and greater sense of satisfaction you will experience.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
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