Last year, 157 people wished you a “happy birthday” on Facebook. This year… only 127. What did you do to piss off those 30 people? Why did only three people comment on thatperfect picture of your toes in the sand? And why the hell isn’t anyone engaging with your superbly crafted political commentary? Better check your phone every five minutes until someone does! That notification “ding” will come any moment now.

If any of these scenarios hits close to home, you might be suffering from social network site addiction, or SNS addiction. Yes, these are the times we live in, when you can become addicted to a virtual world. The good news is, once you understand a little of the science behind this addiction, you can take steps to break it (hint: do not replace it with crack).


It doesn’t matter what kind of person you THINK you are

The term “SNS addiction” might bring to mind images of black-clad tweens hunched over a computer screen in the middle of the night. Well, that depiction isn’t exactly wrong, but it’s not exactly right, either. The terrifying beauty of SNS addiction is that it’s an equal-opportunity addiction. While it’s not yet listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (which is kind of like psychiatry’s Bible), SNS addiction is just as likelyto strike extroverts as it is to affect introverts — surprising if you think introverts would be more likely to be drawn to the anonymity Internet interaction.

But there’s another side to the social media coin; extroverts are more likely to crave social validation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Peach, etc. These sites become an extension of real interaction, rather than its replacement, and an extrovert’s brain responds to a Facebook like with the same excitement as any other reputation booster. So every time your new profile pic gets a new reaction, your brain lights up and waits anxiously for the next one. You may not be a black-clad tween, but there’s a good chance you’re hunched over a screen right now praying for that next little boost.

You really, really hate missing out

If you find the seemingly infinite timeline to be hypnotic, it’s because your brain cravesthe relaxation brain waves activated by social media, and Facebook continues to deliver. If it weren’t for a little modern-day demon called FOMO, this might not be such a bad thing.

Recent studies, however, have shown that FOMO is “robustly linked to higher levels of social media engagement” no matter when or where the itch might strike (i.e. on the toilet, in class, driving… you get the picture).

Since the dawn of time, there have been parties to which you have not been invited. There have been beaches on which you didn’t chill (and Netflix?). There have been exes hooking up with new people. And you were blissfully ignorant of it all. Now, though, you can see your ex-girlfriend making out with a new guy at a beach party you weren’t invited to. Technology for the win!

Nobody, especially extroverts, wants to be left out, and with social media, you never have to be. You’re exposed to everything happening in the world, immediately, at any hour. When all you’re doing is sitting on the toilet looking at your phone, and Kyle is skydiving in Honduras, Amanda’s getting promoted, Jose’s buying a new house, and Abigail is surfing in Maui, it’s no wonder several (several) recent studies have linked increased Facebook use to depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Sounds a lot like drugs, huh?


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