Is Social Media Addiction Real?

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates
Volume 13, Number 6

School is out. Vacations have started and it is the rainy season. This can only mean that it’s June and the start of hurricane season. With all that is going on in the news and in our busy lives, it is easy to forget about hurricanes. We remember Hurricane Irma last year and how fortunate most of us were to escape with little damage. Now is that time to plan for this year and hopefully, we won’t need our preparations. Although we were prepared, my family made a list last year of what we were still lacking in hurricane supplies. This year we will make sure that we have these supplies…just in case.

Our E-Letter this month is about Social Media Addiction. Is it real? Are people truly addicted to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.? Almost every one of our patients discusses something they saw or read on Social Media. We can’t escape it. In fact, our practice has a Facebook and LinkedIn page. How many of us check these sites several times a day and feel the impulse to post what we are doing because we think someone cares? Do we have a Social Media Addiction?

We thank you for reading our E-Letters and for the suggestions and comments we have received. Downloads of handouts from our previous E-Letters can be found on our website, We invite you to read and download them.


How many times a day do you check your Facebook or Twitter accounts? Have you ever stalked someone on Social Media (SM)? Do you get agitated if you are unable to use your SM? The term Social Media Addiction (SMA) refers to someone spending so much time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. that it interferes with other areas of their lives. It is not a true addiction in the sense of alcoholism or drug addiction but excessive use can lead to disruption and destruction of other areas of a person’s life.

Addiction is often referred to as the continued use of a substance despite its adverse effects. People with SMA often check many times a day and react emotionally to what they see or do not see. This can interfere with productivity at work or school, relationships including marriage, and one’s own personal life.

People with SMA spend more and more time on their pages taking them away from activities in the moment. They can become depressed if their posts are not liked and elated if they get many likes. They tend to think about their sites when not online and what they will post when they can get online. They also feel an overwhelming impulse to share something no matter how trivial it is. If they try to cut back on their SM usage, they are unsuccessful. They often use SM to avoid dealing with personal problems or relationship issues. In fact, the more one uses SM, the more one becomes comfortable socializing online; this can replace in-person socializing. There can also be a false sense of intimacy where one opens up and shares personal and private information with others who may not truly be friends. This false security can lead to being taken advantage of or worse.

There are steps you can take and changes you can make to ensure that you are using SM with less risk. Consider recognizing that your SM use is a real problem and that your moods can depend on it. You don’t have to give up SM completely but you need to be in control of it rather than letting it control you. You can turn off notifications so you don’t check every update. You can limit your use to twice a day. You can dedicate specific SM Free Time. You can also use alternate ways to communicate such as face-to-face meetings or phone calls and socializing with others. You can also work on improving and enriching your significant relationships.

We offer the following information on Social Media Addiction. This information can be downloaded as a handout at

I was too busy. But with what? I constantly obsessed over what other people—many of them complete strangers—were posting on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or my fraternity group chat. My time was being eroded by a hundred little distractions every day. I was literally clicking my life away… -A.N. Turner in Breaking the Feedback Loop


  • Social Media Addiction (SMA) is not a true addiction as defined by the DSM 5 although it can have overwhelming and adverse effects on one’s personal, business and social lives
  • SMA like an addiction is the continued use of a substance despite its negative effects
  • Researchers have found that SMA is stronger than an addiction to cigarettes and alcohol
  • Like an addict, people with SMA:
  • Have signs of withdrawal when social media is not or cannot be used
  • Use more and more social media than they planned to use
  • Have tried but are unable to stop or reduce social media usage
  • Think about SM when not able to be online
  • Are unable to control their impulse to share something online
  • Feel high when they receive likes and depressed when they receive no likes
  • Become very knowledgeable about new SM and sign up immediately
  • Lose interest in friends or other activities that are not SM
  • Use SM to feel better when depressed or have bad moods
  • Lie, sneak, or become deceitful to others in order to use their SM
  • Check their SM when they wake up, just before they go to sleep, and even during the night when awakened by an alert
  • Excessive use of SM can lead to anxiety and depressive disorders, attentional problems, impulsivity, sleep disorders, eating disorders, and relationship problems
  • Recent studies have found that teens check their SM more than 100 times per day
  • Complex social media algorithms employ basic behavioral principles of reward and punishment; feeling good if liked, bad if no response or no likes, and prolonged and continued use when given intermittent reinforcement

  • People with SMA must first acknowledge and admit that they have a problem and want to decrease their SM use
  • Unlike other addictive behaviors, the goal should be limited or controlled use rather than complete abstinence as we are all dependent to some degree upon SM
  • Reduce the amount of time you spend on SM:
  • Turn off all notifications so that you don’t check after every update or alert
  • Go on a digital diet by scheduling when to check SM and looking only twice a day
  • Dedicate specific days or weekends to be SM Free Time
  • Find alternative ways to communicate such as face-to-face, phone calls and not texts, socializing with others, and not giving in to the impulse to share with others
  • Stop following trends and SM celebrities/personalities
  • Decide before you post whether what you want to say is really that important or of interest to others
  • Take a week off and attend to enriching personal relationships
  • Seek professional help if you are unable to control your need to use Social Media

Call us at 954 755-2885 or email us at

Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates
5551 N University Drive, Suite 202
Coral Springs FL 33067
Copyright © 2018 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D.

Dr. K’s Blog

June 14, 2018
I have just recovered from a cold. Like many of us, I suffered with congestion, runny nose, a cough, and difficulty sleeping. Fortunately, it did not last long after following my doctor’s advice. But it made me think of how lucky we are to usually be in good health. We often take that for granted as we busy ourselves with our responsibilities and activities. Once we are sick, we realize how debilitating colds can be. We have to cancel appointments, suffer with discomfort, and just wait until we get better.

Being sick made me truly appreciate how good it is to be healthy. I have always taken steps to be healthy…eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. I spray disinfectant after sick patients come to the office and wash my hands multiple times during the day. But the truth is, despite doing our best, we get sick and have to rest up until it passes.

We take our good health for granted and do not focus enough on maintaining it. It is important to recognize that good health is not a gift. It is dependent upon what we do, what we eat, what we drink, how we sleep, what drugs we put in our bodies, and how we work.

Maybe by getting sick, we get refocused on living a healthy lifestyle and being conscious of all that we do.

May 21, 2018
Just as predicted, another school shooting happened. This time in Texas. Ten more lost their lives by an angry and probably mentally ill young man. Again parents, family, and a community grieve because there have been no significant changes. When the tragedies happen, we band together supporting each other and demanding change. Then everything quiets down and people become passive waiting for the elections, for the internal review reports, or for the notoriously slow legal system to take action. This passivity needs to be challenged and the marching must continue for there to be effective change.

Years ago, I remember when there were the post office and workplace shootings that occurred because of disgruntled employees who believed they were harmed in some way. Today, it seems like there are disgruntled students who put such low value on human life, that they go into their schools to kill. When will this stop?

The killing will stop not when there are changes in the gun laws. The killings will stop when politicians and society recognize that mental illness is a causative factor in these murders. Not all people who have a mental disorder are dangerous yet there are those who are just so angry, so disillusioned, so disenfranchised, so isolated that they somehow see killing others as acceptable.

The signs are often there but ignored because mental illness is not taken seriously in our society. These people need to be identified early before they reach the point of rage and act out. They need to be understood and treated so that these tragedies can be prevented before they happen. These individuals need to be defused of their anger and connected to others so that they do not isolate.

We need to march not only for a change in gun laws but also for a change in how we deal with mental illness before another tragedy occurs.

April 20, 2018
It has now been over two months since the terrible tragedy that happened at Stoneman Douglas. School and routines have resumed but people are not the same. A profound sadness is still upon the community and it will take a long time to overcome the anger and grief, if ever. But most people I have spoken to want to resume their lives.

Town hall meetings and gun violence protests occur frequently and rightly so. Hopefully changes will be made to protect and ensure the safety of our society. However, it seems that little attention has been paid to those individuals who are mentally or characterologically ill. History has shown us that these types of individuals will continue to act out against society and will find the means to do so.

We must as a society find ways to help these people and get them connected so that they are not isolated and angry. Early identification of behavioral or emotional problems can help these individuals before their anger and resentment grow into acting out behaviors against society. This is not just a suggestion; this is a necessity.

We very well may be looking at a mental health epidemic. Combine this with the availability of weapons is a recipe for disaster. Just providing money to have more counselors at schools or to failed mental health clinics is not enough. Just as we would with a medical illness, we need to have mental health tools, quality training of therapists, and research-based screening programs to identify and help those individuals at risk before they escalate.

The time has come. Mental illness needs to be recognized as an epidemic and treated and not hidden because of stigma or not being an exciting topic for the media. Guns do kill people but people pull the trigger.

January 20, 2018
During the past year, many of my patients have come to their sessions angry about politics. It doesn’t matter what party they belong to or whether they are right-leaning, left-leaning, or centrist, they are all angry and frustrated. They feel powerless and worry about the future of our country and of themselves. Perhaps, rightly so. Many hours have been spent in conversation attempting to reduce their anger and to focus on their daily lives.

One of the suggestions that have come out of our discussions seems to work. That is, to reduce or eliminate the number of hours spent watching the news on television or listening to it on the radio. It doesn’t matter what network you watch or listen to. All of them seem intent on stirring up feelings of unfairness and anger but offer no solutions. I guess the ultimate goal is to get watchers or listeners glued to their stations. Perhaps this is a media addiction. Yet there is no high but only worry and anger.

I recently read an article about a self-imposed news blackout by Christopher Hebert, an assistant professor of English at the University of Tennessee, in the January 18 edition of The Guardian. The following is an excerpt:
Ignorance is far easier than I thought. I finish two or three audiobooks a week. I read novels instead of newspapers. Five months into my blackout, I’m happier than I ever was back in the days when I was informed. My fingernails are growing back. The sleeping pills remain in the bottle. I’m getting more work done. My family comes home at the end of the day to find me smiling, chopping things for dinner without my old vegicidal rage. And yet, part of me can’t stop feeling guilty about feeling good.
Perhaps, this is one solution to the anger and frustration of a media news addiction.
December 18, 2017
Today, a patient of mine told me that his daughters were graduating from college in a few months. I was surprised to realize and remember how fast time passes. I know that it does but was nevertheless surprised. It seemed like it was just yesterday, that we were discussing their separating and leaving home for college. We spent many sessions discussing being an empty nester and the changes and opportunities it brings.

Time is relative in that it seems like some moments go on forever and some go so quickly that if we blink we miss them. Life just seems to happen while we are waiting for whatever we are waiting for. While we are looking at what we don’t have and didn’t do, we miss out on what we did do and the wonderful experiences that we did have. I think the answer lies in living in the moment. Taking in as much as we can, both good and bad, is the best we can do.

I recently saw a friend of mine who was depressed about turning 70. We talked and I tried to get him to see that age was just a number and how he viewed that number would determine his mood. I don’t think I got very far trying to convince him that he was not old and was still vital and helpful to so many people. Maybe it sunk in.

For myself, I have been practicing mindfulness and trying to live in the moment. I am looking for stillness and sometimes am successful. I try to use all my senses in savoring the moment and some simple experiences defy description in their beauty. Yet reality and our society seem to have a way of intruding so that stress and worry are created. I look at mindfulness and appreciating natural beauty as the antidote to the constant troubling news and feeling of powerless generated by politicians, news people, and other media types.

The past year has been difficult in some ways yet I have had some wonderful experiences with my family and friends. None of us knows what the new year brings for us but I am determined to enjoy as much of it as I can. It will take work and discipline and sacrifice and commitment. But what is the alternative?

November 18. 2017
On Thursday nights, I take a restorative yoga class. This class is not a typical yoga class. Rather, it is more of a meditation and relaxation class. Guided by the instructor while in postures of relaxation, I find myself letting go and truly relaxing from the business of the week. In fact, when the class is over, few yogis want to leave and “I needed that” is frequently heard.

Although I have been trained in relaxation techniques and use them with some patients, it is hard for me to actually relax. Taking this class has allowed me to experience in some way what my patients experience. True relaxation necessitates the ability to let go; something most of us have a hard time doing. Whether we live hurried lives or we don’t have a sense of safety without our guards being up, relaxation takes practice. Letting one’s guard down takes trust. Letting go takes effort.

In restorative yoga after a sense of stillness is achieved in a posture, the instructor uses guided imagery to describe peaceful and beautiful scenes to direct our attention towards relaxing. Following the teacher’s imagery, one can transcend the everyday world into the world of the imagery. Worries disappear, muscles loosen and smooth out, and the events of the day are forgotten for a few moments. Some people become so relaxed that they even fall asleep.

Research has shown that relaxation has many psychological and physical benefits. In the hectic and stressful world in which we live, relaxation is not a luxury. It is a necessity. I have found my way to relax in restorative yoga. I hope you can find your way. Consider taking a yoga class.

October 21, 2017
Last night I watched the movie, “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace, Music, and Love”, and was visibly moved by how much our society has changed in the almost 50 years since this festival occurred. As I remembered and confirmed in the movie, the Woodstock community was peaceful and loving. Numerous comments were made about how nice the kids were, how courteous they were to each other, and how helpful they were to each other. This happened despite the quantity of drugs, the rain, the lack of food, the lack of accommodations, and the difficulties in transportation. Townspeople went out of their way to comment on how courteous the kids were saying “thank you” and “please” and asking permission. They greeted each other warmly and were well behaved not wanting to trespass on the property of others. They respected themselves and each other. When food ran out, they shared. When it rained, they shared whatever they had to cover themselves. When disagreements occurred, they settled them peacefully. When someone overdosed or had bad trips, there were others and medics to help them. They worked together to make this temporary society flourish. As Spock says in Star Trek, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.

Contrast that with today’s society. It seems to me that disrespect has become the norm. The values of our society which has existed for generations seems to have become eroded. Language has deteriorated to the point that curse words are used commonly in language by both sexes in public and on television. Dress has become so casual that in some cases it borders on sloppy and unsanitary. Respect for institutions is not trendy nor important. Values seem to be only important when it serves the needs of the person. Verbal attacks upon others occur daily and fake news and innuendo have become okay to use as fact. People will trample others to get the sale item when in limited quantities. Often, we don’t hear thank you or please even when holding the door for others. Protests have replaced communication, problem solving, compromise, or even mutual discussion. Selfishness and materialism seem to have become the norm and are reinforced by our media. The needs of the one appears to be more important than the needs of the many.

What has caused this in the past almost 50 years? We can point to many factors: fear, anger, the Vietnam War and others, the coming of age of the Internet, advertising, the pursuit of more money at the expense of others, the absence of appropriate role modeling by adults, drugs and alcohol, lies and deceit by politicians, celebrities, and broadcast news, serial abusers, Madoff type scandals, hidden agendas, and a silent society that allows these changes to occur. I am sure we can cite more causes.

Can we ever regain respect for our society to function? I would like to be optimistic and think yes. We see it in the support our nation gives to others when there is a disaster. We see it when individuals volunteer their money and time to help those who are less fortunate. We see it in the dedicated teachers and first responders. We see it in many others who still honor our values.

What can you do? Respect yourself. Follow the Golden Rule. Stick to your standards even though others may not. Say “thank you” and please. Smile at others. Be courteous. Let others get in front of you while driving. Just be concerned about the needs of the many rather than the needs of the one.

As always, I am interested in your thoughts. If you would like to respond to this blog, email me your comments at and I will publish them next month.

Till July…

The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

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Copyright © 2018 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D. P.A. and Associates.