Out of all the types of digital addiction we try to raise awareness of at Time to Log Off, perhaps the most relatable for many young people, is social media addiction. We live in the age of scrolling after all; whether that’s through an idol’s Instagram, or through an argument on Twitter. In fact, you might argue that because social media use is so high in general across the UK, that many people might not even realise they have a problem. However, multiple studies have found a strong correlation between social media use and issues with self-confidence, anxiety and stress. We’re now asking ourselves the million-dollar question – how much social media is too much social media?
The current concern over social media usage
You only have to search for ‘social media’ in Google’s news section, to find how relevant an issue it is, and the concern that it is causing. Very recently, health officials in the UK have come out urging companies such as Facebook to do more to protect children from the risk of social media addiction. This is an interesting parallel to the fact that in a recent BBC Panorama programme, insiders revealed that some Facebook features were designed to keep users on the platform, despite knowing the risk to young people this would cause.
As Instagram is owned by Facebook, it’s perhaps not a surprise that they are taking it into their own hands and trying to paint themselves in a favourable light. In a similar vein to Apple recently launching software to curb mobile phone addiction, Instagram have alerted users to the issues their own app might cause, by adding a feature that tells users when they are “all caught up”. The self-awareness of Instagram is supported by the fact the CEO announced the tool by saying; “understanding how time online impacts people is important, and it’s the responsibility of all companies to be honest about this”.
So with health officials and tech companies alike becoming aware of the dangers of social media, is there a one-size-fits-all threshold? Can we put a number on the question of how much social media use is too much social media?
Average social media use per day
According to Statista, in 2017 the average daily usage of social media worldwide was 135 minutes. This number has only been rising annually since 2012, when it was 90 minutes. That’s a 50% increase in five years, which is significant. If you asked someone how long they think they spend on social media, they would probably say a whole lot less than 135 minutes a day. They wouldn’t be lying, they just wouldn’t be aware of just how long we all now spend scrolling in 2018.
How much is too much social media?
It’s a difficult question to answer, and it doesn’t appear that there’s one answer that would fit all. There are a number of apps that help you track usage, so one useful exercise may be to measure yourself against the average, as cited by Statista. However, this doesn’t account for the fact that one person may just spend an hour a day on social media, but that single hour might have far more of a impact on their self esteem and mental health, than someone who might be spending over the average.
A more useful task might be identifying unhelpful behaviours. To be defined as an addiction, social media has to be something that an individual is psychologically reliant on, and this can be defined by behaviour. You can look at specific apps for example, and consider if behaviour using them might be potentially damaging. For example, on Instagram, do you remove a photo if it doesn’t have a certain amount of likes – and alongside this, is your self esteem is low? Or on Twitter, do you find yourself refreshing your feed every few minutes, and also becoming unhealthily involved in online arguments?
At the end of the day, asking the question of yourself of whether social media usage is too much, is reliant on self-examination. Time alone doesn’t define what’s healthy, but what you’re doing online, and if you’re experiencing increasingly negative feelings when using social media, is. Being self-aware is crucial in understanding how much social media is too much for you.