A friend checked his Screen Time last week and was very alarmed. ‘13hrs 20mins’. This was something that was introduced to him after he had replaced his phone. Screen Time is a feature on an IPhone that helps you monitor how much time you spend with individual apps, features, and settings on your phone. It gives a daily average of the number of hours you spend with the phone in your hand. At this point, he realized he needed help because this was an improvement compared to the previous weeks, but he could not put his phone down. He would compulsively pick up his phone when he heard a buzz, even if it was from the honk of a car. He could not sleep at night because he constantly shuffled between his social media apps. His heart kept racing every single minute he lost awareness of the location of his phone. He then posed the question, “Am I addicted to my phone?”

Addiction, as stated by the American Psychiatric Association is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. This is the chronic psychological need for a habit forming substance, behavior or activity, having harmful physical and social effects. Because it is a disease, it causes a cluster of specific symptoms.

I am sure you have already imagined what you are addicted to. The essence of this post is not to judge you, but bring to your enlightenment the different modalities of help available once you have accepted you have a problem, irrespective of what you are addicted to.

Let me introduce the word ‘dependence syndrome’. A syndrome, in basic medical parlance refers to a group of symptoms that occur together. I’m sure you have heard of a variety of syndromes including the Broken Heart Syndrome and Down Syndrome. These cluster of symptoms make it easy for the physician to identify the condition to effect the necessary treatment.

Addiction has been shown to have long term physiological, behavioral and cognitive effects, because the substance being used takes a high priority in the life of the individual, that he neglects other activities of greater value in his life. This could be his family, books and career.

The primary factor in the development of addiction is called the neurophysiologic reinforcement. This moves the individual from being a user, to an abuser to and finally an addict, using a mechanism known as the reward pathway. The reward pathway involves dopaminergic neurons that originate in parts of the brain, namely the Ventral Tegmental Area (VTA). Dopamine plays a role in how we feel pleasure. It's a big part of our unique human ability to think and plan. It helps us strive, focus, and find things interesting. Most stimulants including cocaine and nicotine also act by elevating dopamine levels however...

Consistent evidence demonstrates impairments in cognitive functioning among people addicted to different substances. These substances are of a wide category ranging from alcohol to social media. This cognitive dysfunctioning affects learning, memory and reasoning.

Now Social Media.

Social media is a computer based technology that was mainly introduced to facilitate the sharing of ideas, thoughts and information by building virtual networks and communication. This made it easier to interact with friends and family. No more taking long walks and drives to visit sick grandma. You could simply place a video call to find out a whole lot from the cleanliness of her room to her dental hygiene. This saves you the time, effort and energy. Booming businesses took advantage of this popular, new and effective means of communication to reach out to customers. Social Media will forever be an ever changing and evolving web based platform which has changed the face of the world.

Which people use social media a lot? I’m sure you have already guessed right? According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 90% of people between 18-29 use at least one form of social media. The Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter. You name it.

Social media, I must say, has been helpful to young adults from impoverished backgrounds because they have used it beneficially to brand themselves and level off the social differences within their peers.

Most of the social media are entirely free to start and have no signup fees. You just need a working e-mail address. The only investment you will need to make is in the form of time. You could take advantage of it to raise awareness on important issues, make new friends, reconnect with old friends and build a solid network of professionals. Remember Pen- pals? Yes! That’s social media.

But social media is just as addictive as drugs, alcohol or gambling. It could initially seem harmless, but it’s consequences could be unforeseen and detrimental. The feeling of depression and unproductiveness does not make sense at all when you compare yourself to other people, all because of the world within your phone.

How do you recognize you are addicted to social media? Here are seven signs.

  1. You suddenly feel anxious when you can not access social media.

  2. You immediately dart across your bed to grab your phone when you hear a buzz on your phone. It could be a fly landing on your phone.

  3. You tentatively monitor your posts to view the likes you get when you put up a new post.

  4. You measure life events by how upload worthy they are.

  5. You check your accounts right before bed and immediately when you wake up

  6. Social media usage cuts into your work time and productivity.

  7. Your friends and family think you have withdrawn and become distant.

If you are addicted to social media, I’m sure you might have realized by now. Don’t fret! It is easier to fight than you think! With some addiction counseling and simple lifestyle changes, you can take control of your life once again. Just know there is help available.

Irrespective of your location, you can drop your name in the ‘Contact’ session on the homepage. You will anonymously be connected to the various addiction specialists in the country and be guaranteed, you will get back on track.

Say no to Stigma and Addiction, and use social media effectively because the world needs a better you in it.

Thanks for reading.


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