If you aren’t sold on the phenomenon of “social media addiction” yet, I don’t blame you. It’s a fairly new sensation that society is still adjusting to.
In fact, the behavior that is being pathologized could be viewed as a sign of the times. It makes sense that people use social media. After all, we haven’t had the luxury of constant connection to friends, family, and celebrities until fairly recently, so why wouldn’t we embrace it?
Of course, this mindset comes with its caveats. While social media use, in moderation, opens doors to an exciting new era of connectivity, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
The dopamine-based rush we get when we interact with our Facebook and Instagram feeds can be toxic if we come to rely on it. It’s easy to brush off the moments we spend in limbo clicking through Snapchat stories on our smartphones as just a way to pass the time, until you realize that we aren’t passing time as much as we are wasting it, closing off that time to more productive uses.
Of course, I’m not writing off social media entirely. I happily use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to promote my own brand and to keep up with the content of people I admire. However, if you’ve never considered a digital detox, aren’t quite sure about the extent to which social media can be addictive or are wary of social media and want to understand it better, here are twelve social media addiction statistics you should consider:
1. Internet addiction affects over 210 million people worldwide
If you were looking for a figure to understand the scope of the issue, here it is. A recent study found that over 210 million people suffer from dependence on the Internet and social media. If all those social media users were segregated to one country, it would have the 7th largest population in the world.
2. Social media addiction may be influenced by life satisfaction
The same study examined the role of life satisfaction- that is, how satisfied one is with their life- in reducing the occurrence and impact of social media addiction. They found that, for certain social media users, deep-rooted issues lower their life satisfaction and drive them towards vices like social media. After all, if you’re struggling to find joy in real life, a social media account might seem like an escape.
What does this mean for you? Well, if you are grappling with addictive behavior surrounding internet and social media use, it might help to start at the root of the problem. Maybe there’s a more general dissatisfaction at play that you are using social media to hide from.
3. People spend an average of 2 hours and 23 minutes on social media a day
Yes, you read that right. And no, this isn’t the rate for people who meet the standard for social media addiction. This is the global average.
This one hits hard for me. If someone asks me to watch a 2 hour and 23-minute long documentary, I’d probably say I don’t have the time. So why would I have that much time to spend mindlessly consuming content?
If this is where your daily usage is at, yes, you’re normal…but isn’t that kind of scary? This goes to show that social media addiction is not an issue that impacts a select group of people. You don’t need to be an influencer to rely too much on social media.
4. Teens who spend 5 hours a day on their phones are twice as likely to be depressed
Once again, we can link social media addiction with more general illnesses rooted in dissatisfaction and dissociation. We can’t say definitely whether social media addiction causes depression or vice versa…but the fact that the two often go hand-in-hand for young adults is cause for concern.
It’s no secret that social media sites invite pressure and comparisons to other people. Instagram is considering removing likes from their platform for good reason. However, band-aid solutions like this won’t necessarily erase the low self-esteem and stress social media brings to the lives of young people.
5. 50% of people who get caught using their phone while driving are checking social media (h2)
This one astonishes me because it goes to show how important such an insignificant behavior can feel to some. It’s one thing to compulsively need to check social media, but when it puts your safety and other people’s lives at risk…it’s time to reconsider.
Another statistic to put that in perspective: 14% of fatal crashes involve cell phones. It’s not just “texting while driving” that we need to worry about. Sometimes the newsfeed can have lethal consequences as well.
6. Six platforms account for most social media use
One of the culprits for social media addiction is the wide variety of content we have at our fingertips. Interestingly enough, six social networking platforms have something of an oligopoly on the world’s social media use. They are: Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Youtube, Instagram and Facebook messenger. Of the six, Facebook is by far the biggest: there are 1.58 billion daily active Facebook users!
Even niche social platforms like LinkedIn have enough active users to make a small country.
This just goes to show that certain social media sites have almost unlimited means of power and they thrive on how many social media users they attract. By feeding into that power we give them the resources to tweak their social networking platforms and make them even more addictive.
I don’t know about you, but the idea of that scares me.
7. Some researchers are pushing for social media addiction to be classified as a disease
One of the most frustrating things about social media addiction is that it is severely under-researched and not taken seriously by medical professionals. Why? Because it is not classified as an official mental disorder. This is likely because social networking is a fairly recent phenomenon and it takes time for the literature to catch up to changes in human behavior. That being said, official classification would absolutely help us find sufficient treatments for the illness.
A paper published in the UK suggests, because 27% of children who spend three or more hours online show symptoms of mental health issues, Internet addiction should be classified as a disease. The same paper suggests that research into its impact on mental health could be funded by a tax on social media companies.
Maybe these Brits are onto something.
8. 81% of teens say social media helps them feel more connected to their friends
No discussion of social media addiction is complete without understanding social media’s appeal. After all, there are very real reasons people, specifically teens, gravitate towards these platforms.
A Pew Research study found that roughly 8 in 10 teens from the ages 13 to 17 cited the ability to keep track of what’s going on in friend’s lives as a positive impact social media has on them. Other positives mentioned were social media’s ability to let teens interact with a more diverse group of people and giving teens a feeling that they have friends to support them through tough times.
9. 45% of young adults feel overwhelmed by the drama on social media
Interestingly enough, negative impacts of social media were far less commonly cited in the Pew Research study. The most prevalent was the notion that social media adds unnecessary stress to young adults’ lives by giving them a window into negative energy they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to.
This begs another interesting question: can social media be toxic? For some people, the answer is yes, but it obviously depends on who you follow. Yes, some tweets and posts can add to your life, but you need to ask yourself if the entertainment you get from them is a truly positive force.
10. 43% of teens say social media pressures them into posting content that will appeal to others
Other ways social media negatively impacted teens’ lives was the pressure to post content that makes them look good, content that will, in turn, attract likes and follows.
This is a window into another crucial way use of social media impacts our mental health. It turns social interactions into a competition of sorts, where one’s value can be quantified by how much attention they receive.
The pressure to keep up and compare yourself to others can lead to an unhealthy mindset. Many of us think that likes and follows reflect our worth. It makes sense; never has social capital been so easy to measure.
11. Some teenagers spend up to nine hours a day on social media
How bad can it get? Well, in the worst cases, social media usage can take up more time than a work or school day.
Combined with the obligations of day-to-day life, spending nine hours on social media in one day can leave little time for anything else, leading to days, weeks and months slipping away into an abyss of nothing.
Sound dark? For some users, this is life. Interestingly enough, most people who engage in social media to this extent don’t realize that their usage is problematic and are ignorant to the pitfalls of such an addiction.
12. Social media is designed to be addictive
This isn’t just an assumption I am making. This is a very real issue, backed up by statements insiders have made after leaving the social networking companies they worked for. The bottom line: social media isn’t designed with your mental well-being in mind.
In fact, the best-case scenarios for companies like Facebook and Twitter is that you spend as much time on their platforms as possible. Therefore, the people who create these platforms design them in ways that keep you hooked. They need to keep your use of social media up so they can make money.
According to Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook’s former vice president for user growth:
“We have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
He doesn’t let his children use the platform he helped create, and is actively warning people about it.
If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. A man whose life used to be dedicated to getting as many people onto the world’s biggest social media platform looks back on his prosperous career with guilt, going as far as to say he did a bad thing for the world.
It’s easy to be cynical about a behavior as normalized as social media being talked about as an “addiction” on par with alcohol and hard drugs. However, the negative impacts it can have on your life are clear and come in many shapes and sizes.
It’s on you to take the problem seriously and decide what you’re going to do to fight against it.