7 signs that you are addicted to social media

Feel you are addicted to social media? Here are the signs to look out for and what you can do about it.

Notifications are taking over your life

Brr. Boing. Beep. Your phone keeps calling, blinking, beckoning you, and you oblige again and again, while you’re studying, working, eating, dating or sleeping. It’s stressful and you have Fomo (fear of missing out) attacks in the middle of the night, when you wake up to check yet another beep. A study, conducted by a team of professors from the University of Southern California, US, in January 2016 and published in the journal Psychology Reports: Disability & Trauma, looked at people’s brains while they surfed social media and found that they responded to notifications much faster than they did to traffic signals. Ofir Turel, the professor who led the study, rated the need to check almost as high as cocaine addiction. 

Change it: “We speculate that addictive behaviour in this case stems from low motivation to control the behaviour,” Turel said in a press release. Try switching off all push notifications on social media apps. Head to Settings>Notifications>Off for each application. This way, you will have to make the effort to open an app to see the notifications.

The 11th Like makes your day

Getting more than expected likes on Instagram and Facebook can give you a high—and you may feel depressed if the response is tepid. According to a report by Britain’s National Health Service, released in September, social media posts are responsible for a spike in depression and anxiety in a quarter of women aged 16-24. “Constantly being on social media isolates you and makes you associate your self-esteem with what others think of you or how you compare to others,” says Sandeep Vohra, senior consultant, psychiatry, at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, Delhi.

Change it: Get off the grid, develop hobbies, socialize more in person and use social media constructively to help others rather than feel jealous, says Dr Vohra.

You prefer to date your phone 

You’re on a date, but you constantly keep checking your phone. Scientists from Baylor University, US, who studied “phubbing”, or being snubbed by your partner for using the smartphone, found this had an indirect impact on depression and relationship satisfaction levels. In the study, published in January 2016 in Computers In Human Behavior, the scientists said that even the mere presence of the smartphone when you’re talking romance undermines the quality of the relationship.

Change it: “You need to value commitments and prioritize real relationships over virtual ones,” says Dr Malhotra. Have switch-off times, or put the phone in your bag, on silent mode, while on a date.

You feel sad after endless scrolling

Jealousy feeds your endless scrolling, you hate friends who post happy pictures of themselves and the world. You feel you’re the only one with problems, everyone else has a perfect marriage, beautiful children and picturesque holidays. You feel inadequate and dissatisfied. A study published in November by the University of Copenhagen in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, And Social Networking found that people on Facebook are 55% more likely to feel stressed, and one out of three envy others.

Change it: The same study offered some good news as well. It found that staying off for even a week from Facebook or other social networks can improve levels of well-being. So take a break and go read a book. “Discuss things that bother you about social media with a friend or, if that’s not possible, with a mental health professional,” says Dr Vohra.

You check the phone first thing in the morning

You’re still half-asleep, but you just can’t wait to know what happened in the social sphere while you were asleep. According to a March 2016 study by Fortis Healthcare in India, students are getting sleepless nights because they check their phones late into the night.

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