I think it’s safe to say that most of us are addicted to our phones and more specifically, social media. “The average person spends over 3 hours on their phone each day, including approximately 2 and a half hours on social media. While it may seem like a harmless pastime, research shows that doing anything repeatedly for extended amounts of time can cause physiological changes in the brain” (Lewis, 2020).

This morning, the first thing I did when I woke up was check my social media sites. I love feeling connected to those around me; however, the first message I received to start the day was one of needing to do more, that in many ways I am falling short or missing out. I notice, as well, that whenever I share a story or post to my feed, every like or comment boosts my mood. I find myself constantly refreshing the feed, hoping for more content. Even now, as I am writing this blog post, I find myself needing to take constant “breaks” to refresh my Instagram feed. Most of us find ourselves repeating these same patterns, but why?

As social media still feels like a new phenomena, research is showing heavy social media use to cause individuals the need to exert more effort to remain focused and often perform worse on cognitive tests (Lewis, 2020). Because social media provides immediate rewards, our brain circuitry implicated in rewards is activated, it creates an addiction. Every time we post or receive notifications from these apps we receive a rush of this “happy” chemical called dopamine,  further enforcing the addiction. Brains of heavy social media users can actually at times look similar to those addicted to drugs or gambling (Lewis, 2020).  

So why do we post anyway? Besides the dopamine rush we get from posting content, we each have different motivations behind our posts. These needs are adapted from famous psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. 

  1. Physiological needs: some individuals post in order to benefit a friend or family member. 
  2. Safety: Many choose to post for physical, mental, and or financial security. 
  3. Love/belonging: Most people generally post to receive social acceptance. 
  4. Esteem: Reasons why people post “me-centric” content, in order to feel better about who they are as a person. 
  5. Self-actualization: When people share their successes. 

Is there one you resonate most with? I wonder what other ways we can go about receiving these needs outside of a post.

It is so incredibly hard to navigate these social media platforms when they provide both positives and negatives. They offer new friendships and relationships, career opportunities, connection to social movements and the news. However, what science also tells us is that we need to be careful with the amount of time we spend on these sites as they are literally shrinking our brains.

Social media is a “hot topic” for most age groups… if you are a parent to pre-teens or teens, check out this blog post for additional support and resources.

For more information check out the article written by Lizzie Lewis called: What Social Media Does to Your Brain

**The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).


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