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When Does Social Media Use Become Problematic?

by Yael Dror, M.A.

Social media has become a very prevalent part of society with almost 2.9 billion people using Facebook, the largest social media platform, at least on a monthly basis if not daily (Dixon, 2022). Today, social media involves a wide spectrum of activities such as calling, chatting, maintaining real-life relationships, meeting new people, socializing, sharing own or others’ content and opinions, getting involved in communities, seeking information, enjoying entertainment, playing games, and passing time. Smartphone usage has significantly increased, especially since the pandemic (Paschke et al., 2021). Social media has become an all-encompassing force driving many components of one’s social life.

Social media use is defined as a platform that allows people to maintain relationships, create new relationships, create and share content, and share information on online platforms (Dailey et al., 2020; Robinson et al., 2019; Treem et al., 2016). Social media use involves the main behaviors of directly communicating with other users, producing content and posting updates, and consuming content by scrolling through a platform’s news feed (Berry et al., 2018). Engagement in social media use can have many effects, positive and negative. However, the difference is crucial when social media use turns into problematic social media use.

Problematic Social Media Use (PSMU) is when the user is unable to control their use of social media to the point where it impacts their social and emotional functioning and interferes with daily life tasks (Blackwell et al., 2017; Marino, 2018; Marino et al., 2020; Ryan et al., 2014). Problematic social media use is also defined as being overly concerned about social media, such as dedicating a great deal of time to it or constantly checking for messages and updates, which results in impairment in several areas (Andreassen & Pallesen, 2014; Arrivillaga et al., 2022). Another definition for this concept is from the biopsychosocial theoretical model, which defines PSMU as a preoccupation and excessive use of social media that leads to consequences in real-life areas, negative feelings, and negative psychological symptoms when social media is not available (Bányai et al. 2017; Kırcaburun et al., 2019).

It is important for individuals who engage with social media to be aware of possible negative effects of their use. It is helpful to be mindful of the amount of use, type of use, and the way it makes one feel. At a time when social media is so prevalent, it can be difficult to notice these social media use tendencies increase for the worse. Therefore, it can be beneficial to take breaks, limit time, and be more intentional with one’s engagement on social media.



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