Feel you are addicted to social media? Selfies. Holiday pictures. Links of interesting articles. Posts. Thoughts of the day. Funny cat videos. Welcome to the virtual world of social media, where people spend hours consuming content posted by others.
Mumbai-based Prashant Gautam Nanaware is a typical example. “I take pictures of everything, including food, and post things online instantly,” says the 30-year-old communication consultant who has Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and WhatsApp on his phone, with all the notifications always on. Even his travelling is full of clicking, “instagramming”, and responding to incoming messages.
“What’s an off time? My phone’s on my bedside when I sleep; when I wake up, I see my notifications first. And I like it when my photos and posts get likes or comments.”Prashant Gautam Nanaware
Recently, while watching Baahubali: The Conclusion, he did a live movie review on Twitter. When he participated in the Mumbai Marathon last year, he ran a Facebook Live session while running. He carries a full power bank and a charger for his OnePlusX and is online for almost 15 hours every day. “Social media has taken me over,” he says.
Like Nanaware, many of us are on the borderline of social media addiction. “Anything in excess is not good for health and can turn into severe addiction,” says Sameer Malhotra, director, department of mental health and behavioural sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi. “If you have a persistent desire to use it, neglect other priorities of life, become restless at the very thought of not being able to log in, neglect sleep, get your eyes strained, use it first thing in the morning, and have relationship issues because of being constantly on the platform, there’s a high chance you’re an addict.”
Think you could be a borderline case too? Here are the signs to look out for.
Notifications are taking over
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.
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