October 13, 2023

By: AEOP Membership Council Member Aditi Senthilkumar

Have you ever found yourself lost and mindlessly scrolling through a page of never ending Instagram Reels? I know I have. For me, it’s a reflex. When I have nothing to do, I automatically grab my phone and start scrolling through my social media. Most people can probably agree that they’ve spent hours on end watching TikToks without even realizing it. But why are we so addicted to social media?

A survey conducted by The Wired Family shows that most kids spend five or more hours on social media a day. I wish I could say these numbers are surprising, but they make sense. According to Foothills at Red Oak Recovery, an adolescent treatment program, teens use social media as a way of gaining their peers’ approval. As more people like and comment on their posts, it releases a surge of dopamine, the feel-good chemical. This can make teens feel the need to depend on social media to feel confident about themselves.

Another factor resulting in the overwhelming amount of time teens spend on social media is a feeling called FOMO. Many other teens and young adults, including myself, are probably familiar with the feeling. FOMO stands for “fear of missing out” and is something very relevant to most teens today. “FOMO is also linked to social media addiction, in that anxiety in possibly being left out or uninformed fuels the need to keep visiting social media sites” states Claibourne Counseling. FOMO can lower teens’ self-esteem by making them feel like they are being excluded from what their peers are partaking in. FOMO can be detrimental to teens’ health by causing them to excessively worry and get distracted often. In an article by the Very Well Family, Sherri Gordon writes that “teens with high levels of FOMO were more likely to check their social media feeds during class or while driving. What’s more, they were also more likely to text and drive.” 

This constant source of distraction is also one of the main reasons many teens these days have a short and fleeting attention span. Most teens addicted to social media would probably admit that they find it hard to concentrate on a task if it requires them to pay attention for longer than an Instagram Reel or TikTok lasts. It has been proven that the attention span of members of Gen Z is significantly lower than those of the generations before us. This can negatively impact our academics and cause problems with communication and maintaining strong relationships. 

Overall, research has shown that social media addiction is a very dangerous thing and can cause depression, low self esteem, isolation, anxiety, communication issues and dissociation. However, if you find yourself instinctively reaching for your phone every time you’re bored, there’s still hope! While you don’t have to completely delete all your social media apps, it can be helpful to only keep a select few instead of having to manage notifications from several apps at a time. Try to put time limitations on apps you use often and stick to them. Make sure you keep your phone away and out of sight when you’re in a conversation with someone, giving them your full attention. Don’t keep your phone in the same room as where you sleep – out of sight, out of mind! It can be useful to take a walk and interact with nature to detox and take a break from your device. In the end, no matter how much time we spend on our social media, it’s never as fulfilling as the meaningful relationships we create with people in real life.

Works Cited

Claibourne Counseling. “How Does Social Media Create FOMO for Tweens & Teens?” Claibourne Counseling, 16 November 2020, https://claibournecounseling.com/social-media-fomo-for-tweens-teens/. Accessed 21 July 2023.

“5 ways to tame your social media use.” ReachOut Australia, https://au.reachout.com/articles/5-ways-to-tame-your-social-media-use. Accessed 21 July 2023.

Foothills at Red Oak Recovery. “WHY TEENS FIND SOCIAL MEDIA SO ADDICTIVE.” Foothills at Red Oak Recovery, Foothills at Red Oak Recovery, 2022, https://foothillsatredoak.com/teen-recovery-blog/why-teens-find-social-media-so-addictive/. Accessed 21 7 2023.

Gordon, Sherri. “How FOMO Impacts Teens and Young Adults.” Verywell Family, 6 January 2022, https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-fomo-impacts-teens-and-young-adults-4174625. Accessed 21 July 2023.

Healthline. “Short Attention Span: Signs, Causes & Ways to Pay Attention Better.” Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/short-attention-span#risk-factors. Accessed 21 July 2023.

Hill, Elena. “Social Media Addiction: Signs, Side Effects, Treatment & More.” Bicycle Health, https://www.bicyclehealth.com/blog/social-media-addiction. Accessed 21 July 2023.

Robinson, Kathryn. “Survey: Most kids spend more than 5 hours a day on social media or video games.” WKRC, 28 November 2022, https://local12.com/news/local/survey-most-kids-spend-more-than-5-hours-a-day-on-social-media-or-video-games. Accessed 21 July 2023.

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