By Elizabeth Rosselle

It’s estimated that around 59% of the world’s population uses social media. That’s a lot, and the number climbs to over 80% for adults ages 18-29—the group that’s also most likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. And, while social media can be a wonderful connector, it’s impossible to ignore the significant influence it has on our emotions and behaviors. There’s plenty of evidence suggesting that social media could influence substance use, particularly in teens and young adults. 

Taking a deeper dive into the connection between social media and its impact on substance abuse may help you to better understand how it can actually fuel addiction. Arming yourself with this knowledge can be useful in helping you or a loved one avoid potential problems down the track. 

Targeted ads

These days, it seems like we can’t do, type, or even say anything around our handheld devices or laptops without the internet knowing what we’re thinking. And, while this can be a convenient way to find what we’re looking for on a daily basis without having to exert too much effort, it can be detrimental if it plays on our addictions. Consider the recent explosion of cannabis dispensaries, for example. Marijuana legalization is now backed in many states and countries, and with this legalization comes an influx of ad campaigns. A lot of these ads crop up on social media, and if you have an interest in weed, chances are your smartphone knows this. So do your social media accounts. And, if you’re an addiction-prone individual, seeing ads for cannabis dispensaries on your social feeds isn’t going to help. This same idea applies to things like booze, vape pens, cigarettes, and the list goes on. 

Not only can seeing these types of targeted ads influence what we’re thinking about, but they make it very easy for us to shop for drugs online, particularly pharmaceuticals. Prescription pills like Xanax are not difficult to buy over social media. Furthermore, apps like Instagram and Snapchat now allow 24-hour disappearing messages and stories. This kind of functionality enables young people to shop for drugs online with more anonymity than ever before.

Comparing ourselves to others 

While social media can be a fun way to share photos and events, it’s also a place for people to showcase carefully curated experiences. In other words, it’s not real life, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t on social media comparing themselves to others. This, in turn, can lead to a negative self-image if we don’t feel like we measure up to others. And, if we’re susceptible to this kind of thing, it can also lead to substance abuse. 

Also worth noting is that we have access to influencers and celebrities on social media sharing photos and videos of themselves partying, smoking weed, drinking champagne, and doing drugs, among other things. Fortunately, lifestyles that include yoga and green juice are beginning to trend more and more, but that doesn’t mean that debauchery isn’t still glorified here and there. Once again, if we’re impressionable, we might seek to emulate these lifestyles and if we’re addiction-prone, this can have negative consequences. 

The average social media user spends around 147 minutes on it per day according to Statista. That’s over two hours that we’re spending every single day on platforms where we’re exposed to ads and content that gnaw away at our vices. Most of us have enough self-awareness and knowledge to understand what we’re being spoonfed over our feeds. The trick, however, is to make sure that we make an effort to surround ourselves with more positive influences while avoiding negative ones. This might sound easier said than done, but by learning coping methods to avoid triggers, we can set ourselves up for success without going to extremes like ditching our digital devices entirely. 

How to detach from the overuse of social media

First of all, if you’re struggling with addictive patterns and finding that social media is having a triggering effect, please do yourself a favor and get some help. Kembali Recovery Center is a great place to start, and recovery support groups can help as well. Nevertheless, here are some tricks to help you reduce your use of and dependency on social media, thus (hopefully) avoiding some of those nasty triggers:

  • Turn off notifications. if your phone is constantly beeping or lighting up with notifications, it can be nearly impossible to detach from social media. The solution? Turn them off! Easy. 
  • Give yourself a daily cutoff and start time. If you tend to start and end your day by looking at your phone and social accounts, why not shave an hour or two off on either end and replace this activity with something healthier? Make it a rule not to check your phone for a set period of time after you wake up, replacing phone time with something like meditation or a morning run. Then, at night, try giving putting the phone away two hours before you go to bed so that social media content isn’t the last thing you consume before you hit the pillow. This can help you start and end your day on more positive notes while breaking the habit of always checking your accounts. 
  • Find some healthy hobbies. What did you love to do when you were a kid before you had a smartphone? Or, if you’ve always had a smartphone, what are some things you’ve always wanted to try? Exploring non-digital activities like surfing, painting, and reading can be a great way to fall in love with life off-screen. And, at the end of the day, you’ll feel much better for it. 
  • Go on a digital detox. This doesn’t mean you have to ditch your devices altogether, particularly if you use them for work. It does mean, however, that you give yourself a set period of time away from personal social media accounts just to prove to yourself that you can live without them. This is easier said than done for a lot of people, but it can be a good and healthy challenge to help overcome habitual behavior that’s often dangerous for those of us who struggle with addiction. 

At the end of the day, only you can decide whether or not your social media use is triggering any addictions. Nevertheless, if you’re struggling, there’s help out there. 

Kembali Recovery Center is here for you

If you or someone you love is struggling to get sober or stay clean, Kembali Recovery Center can help. Contact us today to learn more about our 28-day treatment program. You never have to do this alone.  

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