Social media can become a compulsion, with many of the traits associated with things like gambling and alcohol. But can people really become addicted?

As part of our #LikeMinded series on social media and its impact on mental health, we decided to investigate the growing hype and concern around social media addiction. It’s not yet considered a recognised mental health disorder, but there’s a growing body of research that’s pointing towards the likelihood of certain people being more vulnerable to problematic social media use than others.

(You can read more about the research in this feature)

When we say something is ‘addictive’, we don’t just mean ‘compelling’ or ‘attractive’. We mean somebody that’s reliant on social media psychologically and to the detriment of their relationships and work/life balance. Technological addictions have the same components that we would associate with chemical addictions, such as smoking or alcoholism.

The statements in the video are adapted from the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale, which was used last year in its first nationally representative application to measure levels of addiction in young people in Hungary. When the scale was first designed, it was supposed to just measure excessive use of Facebook; it’s since been adapted to apply to any social media use, accounting for the fact that many people have accounts on different platforms and may use many of them problematically.

This survey found that 4.5% of Hungarian youth are defined as an ‘at-risk’ group, reporting low self-esteem, high level of depression symptoms and elevated social media use. The researchers behind the paper recommend that these at-risk adolescents should be targeted by school-based prevention and intervention programs.

This early research may point towards a conclusion where, while many of us might be heavy users of social media, only a minority actually have a problematic relationship with it. But do you know exactly where you – and your parents, your peers, your children – actually fit in?


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