How Much Social Media Is TOO Much?
How much social media is TOO much?
There can be no denying the impact social media has had on our daily lives. It has transformed how we communicate, reshaped the online shopping experience, impacted how we research products and influenced the way in which we interact with brands.
But with research revealing the average user now spends more than two hours a day on social media platforms, this begs the question: how much social media is TOO much?
Social media addiction is starting to gain traction as an idea. While it is not yet a recognised mental health disorder, there is growing concern that some people may be vulnerable to problematic social media use, in the same way that certain personality types are vulnerable to gambling and alcohol addiction.
When does normal use cross the line into addiction?
So when does normal use cross the line into addiction? The Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale (BSMAS) is one way that has been devised to help diagnose those at risk. Using the scale, the user has to answer six simple questions, scoring themselves between 1 and 5 for each. If a user answers 4 or 5 on at least 4 statements it’s indicative of a problem.
You may be wondering: even if social media addiction is a thing, what damage does it cause?
A recent study in Hungary showed that 4.5% of adolescent social media users were defined as at risk according to the BSMAS scale. These users reported low self-esteem and showed a high level of depression symptoms. This can lead to other psychological problems, including self-harm and even suicide.
It’s unclear from the study what specific behaviour caused such feelings of melancholy. But psychologists point out that these symptoms are symptomatic of cyberbullying, which is a constant cause of distress and worry to anyone affected by it, particularly young people.
What are social media companies doing about it?
With research pointing to a link between social media use, addictive behaviour and depression, it’s clear that social media companies themselves have a role to play in helping to prevent the problem.
Fortunately, they are showing signs of moving in the right direction. Both Facebook and Instagram announced they are rolling out a suite of digital health tools to help users manage their time on the platforms.
The tools aim to highlight users’ daily activity and the average time spent on each app. Users (or parents) can also set daily limits for the amount of time they wish to spend on each app. Reminders are sent and push notifications are muted once these time limits are breached.
While this is a step in the right direction, these tools are optional and require the user to admit they have a problem before implementing them. The trouble with people who are addicted is that they don’t realise they have a problem until it’s too late.
That’s why it’s important that parents, friends and peers keep a watchful eye on those who may be vulnerable to cyberbullying and the effects of social media addiction. The charity Bullying UK has a handy guide showing signs to look out for.
As marketers, we also need to be aware of this issue if we are to tread the fine line between creating compelling content and experiences, without taking advantage of users’ compulsive behaviours.