Addiction to Social Media may be a key driver of anxiety and depression.

Social Media is reactive to and reflective of almost everything in twenty-first-century society. It is accelerating rapidly to offer solutions and benefits to every aspect of life. It can be inviting, satisfying, and addictive but the question is, do we really know when to stop?

Following Mark Zuckerberg’s creation of Facebook in 2004, a digital social age began. People were connecting and engaging in unfamiliar and exciting ways which provided endless possibilities for the future.  Soon followed the creation of fellow social media giants; Twitter in 2006 and Instagram in 2010. These platforms created to connect networks globally and give voices everywhere a platform were met with enthusiasm and their popularity has grown to hold undeniable influence over society today.

‘it can become unclear or even uncontrollable for a user to stop until they are satisfied with their ‘fix’.‘

They influence decisions, identity, and relationships. Influencers with thousands of followers promote what people should wear and buy, new relationships are formed completely virtually, and more than ever our online presence is scrutinised.  In this flood of content that is available twenty-four hours a day, it can feel like there isn’t enough time to see everything available, and that the endless flow of information can leave an audience missing out if they don’t give it their full attention, unsatisfied that they have not got what they needed.

In fact, a study by in 2020 found that the average user spends at least one hundred and forty-four minutes a day on social media. Media headlines promote how bad social media can be for mental health and health organisations such as the NHS encourage a limit to screen time in a virtual environment that can be toxic. So, knowing this, why is there still the irresistible urge to keep scrolling?

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This is no coincidence or mistake. In fact, it’s a calculated decision by the drivers of social media in the marketing and presentation of their content, in order to drive traffic, conversion, and interaction. From short snappy titles and surface-level content, inviting imagery, and hashtags that lead elsewhere, users are teased with information that leaves them wanting more.

Now, completely hooked, it can become unclear or even uncontrollable for a user to stop until they are satisfied with their ‘fix’. Recent Netflix Documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’ explores the negative impact of these issues in the platforms being able to influence the user to a larger extent than ever before. Especially in the context of important decisions, for example, elections. This is an example of how social media can overcome individual logic and thought to impact an individual in their actions in a way that can be more severe than initially realised.

Of course, social media also has huge advantages. Notably, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, it must be recognised that these platforms allow life to exist as normally as possible; connecting people and saving businesses that can function in a virtual space. However, it is worth considering that in 2021, the tables have turned. Social Media platforms were created with a detrimental reliance on users to survive and prosper. Now, society seems to rely on social media equally or perhaps more, needing it just as much as it needs us.

MACKAYAN: social media, do we know when to stop?