It is a simple fact that human beings seek dopamine release. The ‘pleasure chemical’ in our brains, dopamine is associated with joy, euphoria, excitement; and is the cornerstone of every addiction. Drugs, alcohol, and gambling are restricted to adults because youth are known to not have the required coping mechanisms to approach those things responsibly. The same cannot be said of social media, which has been demonstrated to be just as addictive. In 2017, knowledge is the only line of defense against the addictive nature of social media, so consider the following from Ottawa Youth Counselling:
Social Media and Dopamine Release
You’re bored at home, so you check who’s on facebook to see if you can strike up conversation. You send out 5-6 “Hey’s” to your friends, and wait for a response. Nothing happens, so you put your phone away. Eventually, you feel a buzz and with it a rush of euphoria as you proceed to check your notifications. While perhaps not ultra-intense, this is a dopamine rush.
Apps like Instagram, Tinder, SnapChat, crank the level of excitement up and introduce a degree of mystery. Every time your phone buzzes, you don’t know whats waiting for you, so unlocking your phone becomes almost like a present you get to unwrap 100 times a day. Most of the time it’s boring spam emails, but it COULD be an Instagram or a Tinder match, which validates our self-worth and leaves us feeling attractive and virile.
Adolescence and Habit-Creation
They say the teenage years are the best and worst times of ones life. New feelings hit hard and frequently, leading teens to oscillate quickly between the highest highs and lowest lows, often multiple times a day.
Not only do raging hormones make these feelings extremely intense, but the fact that we have little experience coping with them means processing them healthily is difficult.
Too often, teens cope with these feelings unhealthily. They turn to drugs, alcohol, and unfortunately social media, as reliable means by which they can control the way they feel. When you’re down; a like, match, or follow can help bring you back up, and so many teens come to rely on social media as the foundation of their emotional stability.
Problematically, during adolescence we establish the coping mechanisms we rely on to handle negative emotions for the rest of our life. This is why such a large portion of alcoholics and drug addicts can trace their addiction back to their teenage years.
Preventing Bad Habits
Stopping yourself or your child from establishing a social media addiction can be helped with consistently-enforced rules concerning social media usage, but it’s important not to emphasize rules as the foundation of your strategy.
Avoiding negative habits is half the battle, the other (and arguably more important) aspect is seeking out positive ones. The most positive habit a person can have concerning processing feelings and emotions in a healthy way is being able to speak comfortably about the way we feel to people who care about helping.
Establishing this habit is easier said than done, but it’s made easier through Ottawa Youth Counselling. Sometimes it’s difficult to find a person in life you can be comfortable around and trust to hold your words in confidence. If this is a situation you can relate to, we recommend that next time you pick up your phone, instead of looking for notifications, you get in touch with us.