Is Social Media as Addictive as Alcohol and Nicotine?

noun  ad·dic·tion \ə-ˈdik-shən, a-\
:  compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly :  persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful

In contemporary society, it's surprising if an individual doesn't use social media of some sort. It's everywhere you look and easily accessible via smartphones, tablets, watches and computers.But is social media addictive? Some would say casually that they're a 'social media addict' or that they're 'addicted to their phone', but is it more harmful than we think?

A new study from Amsterdam analysed social media use in comparison to alcohol, chocolate and nicotine addictions and revealed some telling results. From the Vrije University of Amsterdam, researchers looked at 200 people's online habits  and concluded that society is so obsessed and dependent on social media that rehabilitation programmes should be available to cut use of sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Just the simple sight of a logo of popular sites can be a trigger for 'addicts'; the study says that the Facebook logo prompted “spontaneous, pleasurable reactions” for regular users, however less-frequent users weren't affected by the blue trademark logo we all recognise.

Dr Guido van Koningsbruggen from the study comments “These results support our hypothesis that exposure to social media cues triggers spontaneous hedonic reactions in frequent social media users.”
"... we speculate that the observed spontaneous hedonic reactions to social media cues might also be associated with people's failures to resist social media temptations."

While there is no official medical condition or disorder for social media addiction, and it's difficult to define where an enjoyable activity becomes a damaging dependency. How long does someone have to spend per day to be 'addicted'? For some, spending 3 hours per day scrolling through Twitter may be the norm; for others, 7 hours may be normal. Many people may feel like they're missing out on conversations, social events or news when unable to access or on an involuntary break from social media.

There is no hard evidence that prolonged social media use is damaging, but some suggest that spending time on platforms in excess can trigger anxiety, depression and isolation from others, ironically. However some studies reveal that social media use can actually improve relationships and connections; it can all depend on what people use social media for, how long for, and their lifestyles around their social media use. 

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