Social Media Use. Is it addictive?

pic. post. friend. chat. text. like. repeat.

What does the Research say?

World Health Organization (WHO) classifies Internet gaming disorder a problem in 2018. Includes condition in 11th International Classification of Diseases (ICD).


Chat with a specialist now

Social Media Addiction. Is it a thing?

Not officially, but excessive use can be a problem

The advent of social media has brought about sweeping changes in the lives of teens and adults. A century ago, most people had limited access to the Internet. As it stands now, even toddlers are introduced to the web, with many carrying tablets along for educational and entertainment purposes.

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the extent of technological influence was brought to light. The level to which social media networking had impacted the lives of users was also analyzed. In many cases, its use had done more harm than good to active social media users.

Research suggests that the most common indicators of social media addiction are visible when examining a person’s life for possible warning signs. For example, a person’s academic or job performance may suffer due to the amount spend online, and relationships may feel the strain of always being “on.”
Today a large majority of people feel glued to their screens. A majority of their lives are spent texting, playing video games or interacting with social media. Users do not often realize that they may actually be developing an addiction to social media. Hence, they may be completely unaware of the ways use has taken over their lives unless someone tips them off about what they are seeing from an outside perspective.

Social Media addiction

Social media addiction is not a diagnosable condition yet, rather it refers to the ‘obsessive’ and excessive use of various internet and social media applications. Frequent use may lead to relationship problems, on-the-job and academic performance issues, and health concerns.

According to published reports, social media is responsible for up to $3 trillion in productivity losses worldwide. This shows the tremendous influence social media is having on society today. Though it has many clear benefits, its use becomes devastating when it hijacks a persons life, often unknowingly.

Common signs of social media addiction

  • Frequently checking social media notifications at short intervals
  • Checking in at every location; meal, gathering, activity
  • Feeling stressed and uncomfortable when there is no or limited access to social media
  • Continually updating social media of your activities, thoughts, location
  • Most time is spent engaging with social media rather than in other activities
  • Extreme focus on shares and likes
  • Feels angry when confronted about social media use
  • Social media persona becomes your identity 

Ways in which social media can become addictive

  • People comparing themselves to others – Today, people use social media as a tool for expressing themselves. In essence, social media becomes part, f not their entire identify. People may spend time lurking and analyzing what social media “friends,” are doing, and how their lives compare to their own.
  • Virtual identity – Over time, the distinction between everyday life and a person’s online persona blurs. Users view social media as the place where peers, classmates, family and friends are found. So, they see social media as the only central way to interact with others, and may forget to include offline interactions in day-to-day living.
  • Fear of missing out – Spending time comparing oneself to others, looking at their lives, analyzing the clothes they own, the places they travel to, the things they have, and the seemingly fabulous time they are having may lead to feelings of “missing out.” A person may feel like they don’t measure up, or they need to do more so they feel like part of the “in” group. This may lead some people to feel “less-than” others, which may intensify feelings of inadequacy, and depression.
  • Engagement – Social media platforms are designed to entice the user to post, and to continue to post to keep people engaged. Users may find themselves caught up in the ever increasing drive to earn more likes for the things they post on Facebook, Instagram and other platforms. Likes for some users translate into a person’s perceived value of worthiness. More likes = higher value to others. The desire to be “liked” may result in an insatiable drive to post, which furthers the likelihood of being caught in an addictive reward loop that can be hard to break.
  • Always on – Many social users would rather spend their day hooked in social media than spending time offline or engaging in outdoor activities. They feel pressured to stay connected, online and networking always. The continual need to compete for online presence may actually be contributing to a person’s overuse habits.

Links to video game addiction

Video game is another type of addiction which if not addressed can become a serious threat in a person’s life. Today the lines between gaming and social media are blurred with the creation of games like Fortnite, which blend the two realms together. Statistics reported by video game makers in the number of hours spent playing video games continues to rise exponentially. Game designers employ psychological hooks to keep users in the [their] game, leveling up, and engaged. An example of this is achievement levels. Leveling up takes skill, energy, and time. Similar to the need to post more to feel better, players may game more to feel a sense of achievement and victory in the game. Players may begin playing for sheer entertainment but find themselves unable to stop on their own.

Factors linked to Excessive Social Media Use

Teens and adults who are most vulnerable are those who struggle with social anxieties and/or depression. Over time their social media use may progress to a point where it becomes compulsive and obsessive. They may use as a way of avoiding what they feel uncomfortable doing, or as a way of feeling better when they generally feel down, or depressed.

People who feel they do not fit in with their peers may also end up becoming excessive social media users. This is because they have access to a larger world in social media than their offline life offers. They may be shy and unconfident and find that strangers online treat them differently others. They may end up preferring the people they socialize with online to those in their circle of influence.

Warning Signs and symptoms

Social Media Excessive Use

  • Persistent or compulsive social media engagement
  • Regular, frequent, and rising social media use 
  • Denial of problem (yet others recognize it)
  • Attempts to quit using often fail
  • Imposed limits bring massive frustration
  • Resorts to lying about use when confronted
  • Prefers being online rather than engaging offline
  • May feel like “life is over” when away from device
  • May spend time online to avoid dealing with other life events
  • Problems in multiple areas (relationships, friends, family, wellness, school, or employment)

Risk Factors

  • History of addiction 
  • Experienced loss
  • Socially isolated
  • Self-esteem issues

Look for these common problems


  • Avoids family and friends in lieu of being online
  • Engages in social media when social etiquette suggests otherwise
  • Frequent disagreements over social media use 
  • Avoids non-social media communication with others
  • Relationships suffer due to time spent online


  • Progress in school hindered by social media use
  • Gets in trouble for using social media at school


  • Distracted by social media on the job
  • Time spent online rather than work

Mental and Emotional Health

  • May be depressed or anxious
  • Socially avoidant
  • Prefers social media to in-person activities
  • Family problems
  • Suicidal

Physical Health

  • Poor health
  • Sleep habits hindered by late night use
  • Little time devoted to fitness activities

Treatment of Social Media Addiction

At reSTART we understand the effects of social media addiction on people’s lives. Many find the support they need by enrolling in an intensive residential stay where tech use is infrequent and highly limited. A period of abstinence helps reset and de-tech the brain. For many, it’s just whats needed to connect with what matters most – life.


reSTART is the leader in residential care for gaming addiction

Here when you need us

Talk to an admissions specialist at 800.682.0670