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What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

If it is to reach for your smart phone to check for your latest Facebook updates, tweets and “selfies,” chances are you are addicted to social media.

And you wouldn’t be alone. With one billion people on Facebook alone, there is a lot of social media activity going on.

Social media addiction is now a recognised condition sometimes requiring treatment. That’s because excessive social media use has been linked to anxiety, depression, anger and relationship problems.  It can become addictive because it taps into the nub of what we humans are so good at doing – that is, connecting with others.

Research from Harvard has shown that disclosing information about ourselves activates the same part of the brain associated with the pleasure experience as when we enjoy a nice meal, get rewarded with money, or have sex and this activation is higher when we have an audience!

When does social media use become a problem?

As with many other forms of addictive behaviour, it is often not until the detrimental issues start to affect others around us, before we eventually gain the insight that spending six to eight hours a day on social media sites is damaging our health, work or relationships.

Dr Kathy Charles from Edinburgh Scotland has found that

•    12% of users said that using Facebook made them feel anxious
•    30% felt guilty about rejecting friends requests
•    Many felt “pressured” to come up with inventive status updates.

If you suspect you are checking on your emails too often during the day, repeatedly scanning your phone for messages and keep Facebook open continuously to receive updates, you may be addicted to your technology.

The down side is preventing your brain from enjoying any quiet or down time, overtaxes your brain and makes it ever harder to switch off.
The result? It costs you your innovative, creative thinking and imagination skills.

Meanwhile, you might enjoy these “Twelve Signs You’re Addicted To Social Media” as written by Harry Wallop in the U.K’s Daily Telegraph. I especially “like” number 8.


Can social media and work, work together?

Absolutely. Social media adds to our repertoire of communication.
It’s about keeping things in perspective and making the decision just HOW much time we want to devote to our social media and then STICKING to it.

Some workplaces have strict social media policies in place; others are more flexible about the “dos” and “don’ts”, reflecting that the needs, requirements and expectations of every workplace are unique.

When talking with some CEOs and business owners recently, some advised me they allow free rein of social media in their business workplaces, especially if they see the need for continual and fast access to information or people. Others have instigated technology or social media free time during the week, to allow people time to work continuously on projects, uninterrupted by the distraction of social media.

But if your social media usage is interfering with your performance and productivity, perhaps it’s time to step back and reflect how you could be doing things differently and implement a social media break in your day.

  • Try working for 15 minutes with NO distractions and then gradually increase the time spent doing focused work.
  • Choose to go for a run/walk without earphones and just connect with nature
  • Travel home on the bus/train/car without listening to music/the radio/playing games/checking your phone and just observe what is going on around you.
  • Get bored! next time you are waiting choose not to entertain yourself with your phone or iPad and indulge in some gentle thinking instead.

How do you manage your social media?


Diana I. Tamir and Jason P. Mitchell  Disclosing information about the self is
intrinsically rewarding PNAS May 22, 2012 vol. 109 no. 21 8038-8043

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, keynote speaker and best-selling author. You can now pre-order her new book ‘The Natural Advantage’ due for publication in October 2024.

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