Recently, a lady shared at a local AA meeting about her addiction to social media. Her phone had broken down for a few days and she had no choice but to wait until she was able to go to the store with her husband to purchase s new phone. She put a message on Facebook, explaining the current situation, and told her friends online to either call her home phone (she still had one) or to message her on Facebook in case of emergency.

As she sat in line at Starbucks later that day, waiting for her drink, her anxiety increased significantly. “ I began to get more and more anxious. I looked around me and everyone was pulling out their phones and checking social media and their email. I had nothing to do in line. I stood there and tried to remember what it was like to simply wait for a drink, the way I used to 15 years ago. I observed everyone around me. Everyone had his or her phones pulled out. It was an interesting site to see.”

After a day or so, this particular lady exclaimed that the experience had taught her something.” I don’t notice anything around me anymore. I don’t look outside. I don’t interact with my children as much as I should. I use social media and my cell phone the same way that I used drugs and alcohol. While more benign, the addiction is the same. It causes me to miss out on things going on around me. It causes me to lose relationships or even weaken them. I get so involved in my little online world that I forget to look around and see what’s actually there.”

The social media addiction is a real problem. According to a study, “Some are simply seeking information, and they seem at the least risk of addiction. Others are looking for happiness, fulfillment, or a sense of belonging that is missing in other aspects of their lives, and that is most concerning.”

The results from the study are interesting because they correlate to studies done about drug and alcohol addiction. Many people who take painkillers for necessary purposes or drink alcohol on occasion can be compared to those just “seeking information” in the social media study. They are just a part of society, using these substances on an ad-need basis, and only on occasion. They are less prone to become addicted to them. But those who use substances to fulfill an emptiness within themselves tend to be addicts. There is not one addict who does not experience a sense of emptiness and loneliness, and they use alcohol and drugs to fill this sense of loss within.

Of course, being addicted to social media isn’t as harmful in many ways as being addicted to drugs and alcohol. Like the addiction that most people have to coffee, there are many, many people who are addicted to social media who are otherwise not addicts in general. But what are people doing when they are checking social media? And can the addiction to social media become dangerous just like the addiction to drugs and alcohol?

Most people have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn pages. In some cases, it is necessary to understand how to navigate these pages for certain job positions. Many people use Facebook business pages and Twitter to promote their businesses. Social media marketing is a free, easy tool to promote advertising. It is imperative that local business owners understand how to use social media marketing in order to survive nowadays as a business.

However, many more of us simply use our phone because we are bored. We watch videos, refresh out Facebook news feed, check on how many people liked or shared our post, and feel a sense of security from the entire process. In some ways, many individuals feel “loved” by the interaction they receive on social media in a way that they are not receiving in real life. The study goes on to say that, “Our research indicates that people need to develop a full social life. Social media is great for exchange of information, but not as a substitute for family, traditional friendships, and in-person relationships.”

Like drugs and alcohol, when used to fulfill a need that is not being met, social media is just another replacement addiction that is unhealthy in its own way. If addicts are replacing their addiction to drugs and alcohol with an addiction to Facebook, it is no better than becoming addicted to shopping. It is simply a means of avoiding the issues at hand, which can cause the addict to drink and use again. If addicts do not find in-depth, personal relationships, and maintain active interaction with caring family members, they tend to isolate. And isolation is the key factor that brings an addict back to the drug or drink.

Are we at Footprints telling you that your addiction to social media is as bad as your addiction to drugs and alcohol? Of course not! In fact, many of us here are probably just as guilty as you are about refreshing our Facebook new feed. Just keep in mind that social media cannot replace the spiritual recovery found in the 12-steps of AA and the in-depth recovery programs found at rehabilitation centers like Footprints.

Do you find yourself becoming addicted to a variety of things because you suffer from loneliness and boredom? Have you kicked your addiction to drinking, but are replacing your addiction with something equally as unhealthy? If so, contact Footprints Behavioral Health and get the recovery you need. Call Linda Rose at 949-558-4723 and start your roadmap towards recovery today.