The original name has been changed in this article for anonymity.
According to Pew Research Center, nearly two thirds of American adults, 68%, are Facebook users and three quarters of that access Facebook on a daily basis. Roughly half of college students have shared they could not give up social media if they had to.
With Facebook using psychology to drug its onlookers and Instagram dragging us through photos of comparison, when does it become a serious addiction?
Though social media (internet) addiction is not officially listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), its characteristics are very similar to those listed for “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders”, effects such as preoccupation with substance/activity, being loss of other interests, using it to improve ones mood.
Stacey, a BYU-Idaho student, agrees that social media might not seem like a real addiction, but it can be as much of a real addiction as other things, such as pornography and drugs.
She didn’t fully recognize she had an addiction to social media until this year. It came as a gradual realization for her and it’s still an ongoing thing she sometimes struggles with.
“Someone is talking about the latest book they read, or my roommate reads self-help books, sometimes I think, ‘What am I doing with my time? and why am I not reading the kinds of books and not reading like she is. Sometimes those moments of realization come from, you could call it jealousy almost.”
Excluding when she uses it for her job, Stacey personally spends three to four hours a day scrolling, over the course of waking up by the time she goes to bed.
“The time I’m using spent on social media could be used on going to the temple, praying, or ministering. And those are all things I’m not the greatest at, but cutting down on my use, I think I would be more spiritual instead of dedicating my time to social media. I wouldn’t say social media hinders my spirituality but it doesn’t always help.”
She also said it can have an effect on her roommates, and when she’s around them, she definitely recognizes the times when she’s drawn back to the screen.
“My one roommate will call me and my other roommate out if we are on our phones and she isn’t. She’ll make a joke like, ‘Okay millennials, ‘let’s put down our phones.’ I definitely recognize the moment or whatever is going around me may not be entirely important and so I just look at my phone instead.”
She said that in reality, if she put down her phone and interacted with her roommates, that conversation could be turned into a bonding moment.
Stacey started taking steps to manage the addiction by first, setting a time limit for both Facebook and Instagram using a program on her iphone. She didn’t really start implementing it until six months ago. Her phone will automatically suspend the app and won’t let her get back on it until the next day, though she says the challenge is still there as it’s just as easy to override it by entering your pass code to get back into the app.
“If I’m a drug user and I use a drug, that’s a very physical effect, but once you use the time limit on your phone, that’s a more mental effect. Like with drugs, you don’t really recognize until after the fact or the guilt doesn’t hit you until after the fact, but with social media it’s like having to recall, what did I spend two hours on, is it just Buzzfeed quizzes or watching Instagram stories? Whereas drugs, you’re like, yep, I did drugs, no doubt about that.”
Secondly, Stacey has tried to become more conscious of those around her.
“The first one is a hard rule I can set, but the second one is something I have to personally be more conscious, more aware of, harder to change. Which I think is the case for any sort of addiction whether its porn, drugs, or alcohol. Sometimes you have to set technical rules, a mental rule in your brain, and you have to stick to it.”
In a study conducted among 50 BYU-Idaho students, 81.3% of them answered yes to checking their phone both 10 minutes after waking in the morning and 10 minutes before they go to bed. The survey also found that a little over half of the students felt guilt for behavior/ amount of time spent on social media.
Stacey says that if you think you are addicted, “more often than not, you are.” The first step, she reiterates, is to recognize it as a real addiction, that it’s not made up or cliche. She also gave tips for those trying to quit cold turkey.
“The key would be to set some smaller goals that would eventually turn into a bigger goal. Maybe it’s as simple as not using social media before you go to bed.”
She still finds moments of hope and healing in times when she’s not using her phone. She gives the examples of when she’s sitting down having conversations with her roommates when her phone was put away and she wasn’t even thinking about social media. She said during those times are when she’s had the greatest conversations with her roommate about something she was going through or vice versa.
“Recognizing for a brief amount of time, I was able to to do something more meaningful and offer service to another child of God. That’s where I would say the rewarding moments come.”