This article is an opinion piece and is in no way intended to be judgmental to anyone.
“In this day and age, the digital age, you can forget about a resume; you are what your social media says about you.”
― Germany Kent
While it connects us to people and places all around the world, keeps us updated and broadens our horizons, social media is causing us far more harm than most people would care to imagine.
Social media addiction works like every other type of addiction. For instance, cocaine works by flooding the pleasure centers of your brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter also called ‘the happy hormone.’  It creates a sense of euphoria that the user would always come back for. When your phone buzzes with a notification or you’re scrolling through your refreshed Instagram feed, your brain is stimulating the same euphoric reaction.
Social media is progressively creating an attitude of unhealthy competition and destructive self-seeking in millions of people, especially the younger generation. Our activities online affect our interactions in the real world, making it difficult for us to draw a line between the two.
Case scenario: Imaginary Amy
Amy is 16 and all about body image and perfection.
She takes a selfie wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and sandals at the beach and uploads it on Instagram. This photo is unfiltered, unedited, happy, and bright. For the first few minutes, there’s only one like and no comment. She’s devastated and begins to think she’s not good enough. She waits two more hours and from all her 5,000 followers, she gets only 10 likes.
She deletes the photo and goes online to search for photos of Instagram models and get a few tips. The next day, she takes a rather raunchy selfie in the sun’s glare. This time, she’s wearing a hot two-piece bikini and no footwear. She spends about an hour editing this photo up to ‘standard,’ filtering the color, trimming her waistline, and enhancing her facial and body features. Amy uploads this photo and waits. In less than 10 minutes, she’s gotten 500 likes, 20 comments, and 200 new followers, all exponentially increasing with every passing minute.
As of that day, Amy never uploads a picture without editing the life out of it. She becomes very ashamed of her body and natural skin and she spends most of her time trying to change the way she looks. In real life, she now suffers from depression because she doesn’t receive the same admiration and approval she does online. This prompts her to invest all her energy into getting perfect, sexy pictures and uploading them for comments and thousands of likes. It’s become a source of euphoria and an exciting thrill that she needs like a drug.
We are all Amy, one way or the other
Several surveys and studies have tried to determine the number of hours an average person spends a day on social media. While many record 90–153 minutes, it could be far more than that for some people.
Gone are those days when teenagers would visit each other after school to chat, watch movies, or go through their coursework together. Everyone’s so busy catching up on all the posts on their numerous social media timelines. Parents are not helping either because the children follow their parents’ examples. If, as a parent, you spend a lot of time on your phone and barely visit anyone, your children will do the same.
Excessive and misleading use of social media will only create a virtual world that we can’t always differentiate from the real world. Seeking validation and approval from unknown people can cause a person to spiral into social anxiety in real life.
When we are admired and worshipped by fans and followers online, we expect people to treat us the same way in real life. This gives rise to narcissism, commonly defined as “the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s idealized self-image and attributes.”
These days, everyone is competing with someone else, and the higher you go on the social index, the bigger the competition gets. Friends are turning against one another to compete for the highest number of followers and story views. It’s gotten so crazy that people now use hashtags like #likeforlike #follow4follow, #ifollowbackasap to canvass for followers online.
Living online is taking your life from you
Even on the hospital bed, sick and in deep pain, some people will still find the energy to share photos and videos of their critical condition to their followers online. They don’t care if their friends and family turn up to visit or not. All that matters is sympathy and comments from their followers online.
We deserve better than we are giving ourselves. While there is a ration of social media that is informative and educative, we are overdoing the bad parts, progressively reducing the quality of our lives.
You can control your social media usage or sign out entirely. There was a time when there were no smartphones and people lived happily.
Here are a few things you could do to overcome your social media obsession:
- Turn off all your notifications — you’ll be less tempted to go online when you can’t see any enticing headlines.
- Set a limit and discipline yourself.
- Get a new hobby and make sure it’s something you enjoy doing.
- Hang out more with people who are not obsessed with their phones.
- Spend more time with your loved ones.
- Take long breaks off social media.
The purpose of a camera is to capture memories, not replace them.
- “How does cocaine work?” Web MD. Retrieved November 22, 2019.