Driving Factors Behind Social Media Addiction

Use of social media is extremely common in America, especially among young people who have grown up in a digitally connected world. Unfortunately, a number of social media users develop dysfunctional patterns of behavior that point to a form of non-physical addiction. In recent years, researchers have started exploring the driving factors behind social media addiction. Let’s examine some of the results of these research efforts.

Social Media Addiction Essentials

There is no official definition for social media addiction. However, the model for this condition follows the basic pattern of a form of non-physical addiction called behavioral addiction. A person affected by a behavioral addiction exhibits symptoms that largely mirror the symptoms of substance addiction, including such things as:

  • Loss of control over the level of participation in a given activity
  • An inability to reduce participation in a given activity, despite the desire to do so
  • Spending time on a given behavior instead of fulfilling vital responsibilities or obligations
  • Spending time on a given behavior instead of previously favored hobbies or activities
  • Strong cravings for a behavior while doing other things, and
  • The onset of unpleasant feelings (i.e., withdrawal) when the desired behavior is unavailable

However, substance use alone does not serve as a basis for these symptoms.

Driving Factors

In a study on social media addiction published in 2013 in the Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy, a team of British researchers conducted a review of the potential motivations for an addictive relationship to social networking. The findings analyzed by these researchers identified a range of potential causes, including:

  • Attempts to use social media networking to compensate for poorly developed interpersonal skills
  • Reliance on social media use as a coping mechanism for specific unwanted feelings (e.g., depression or loneliness) or as a more general tool for stress relief, and
  • A belief that social media use provides vital rewards not obtainable through other means

In a second study on social media addiction, published in 2012 in the journal Psychological Reports, a team of Norwegian researchers examined the usefulness of a questionnaire designed to measure addiction to the highly popular social media site Facebook. Among other things, these researchers looked at the personality traits associated with addictive use of this site. They concluded that two such traits — extraversion and neuroticism — are found more often in people who develop a Facebook addiction. By itself, extraversion is not viewed as a “negative” personality trait. However, people affected by neuroticism can develop a broad range of dysfunctional behaviors.


International Journal of Preventive Medicine: Behavioral Addiction Versus Substance Addiction – Correspondence of Psychiatric and Psychological Views https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354400/ Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy: Social Networking Addiction – Emerging Themes and Issues                                                                                                           https://www.omicsonline.org/social-networking-addiction-emerging-themes-and-issues-2155-6105.1000e118.php?aid=22152 Psychological Reports: Development of a Facebook Addiction Scale https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2466/02.09.18.PR0.110.2.501-517?journalCode=prxa

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