Is Social Media As Addictive As Smoking And Gambling?

Is Social Media As Addictive As Smoking And Gambling?

In the same way smoking, gambling, and drinking gives us a hit of the feel-good chemical Dopamine, it appears social media and technology is doing the exact same thing.

Hannah Edensor
Posted by Hannah Edensor

In a recent interview with Tom Bilyeu on Inside Quest on the topic of millennials in the workplace, TED speaker and author Simon Sinek said while there’s nothing wrong with a bit of social media, there is a clear imbalance with the amount of time it occupies, especially in younger people.

“We know that engagement with social media and our cellphones releases a chemical called dopamine, that’s why, when you get a text, it feels good, right?” Sinek said.

“We’ve all had it when you’re feeling a bit down and a bit lonely and you send out 10 texts to 10 friends… ’cause it feels good when you get a response. It’s why we count the likes, it’s why we go back 10 times to see.”

You can watch the whole clip here:

“When you get it, you get a hit of dopamine, which feels good, it’s why we like it, it’s why we keep going back to it. Dopamine is the exact same chemical that makes us feel good when we smoke, when we drink and when we gamble,” Sinek added.

“In other words, it’s highly, highly addictive.

“We have age restrictions on smoking, gambling and alcohol and we have no age restrictions on social media and cellphones, which is the equivalent of opening up the liquor cabinet… There’s nothing wrong with social media and cell phones, it’s the imbalance.”

Sinek also explained the origins of social media addiction, with special mention of millennials who are accustomed to a ‘get what you want when you want’ mentality.

“Too many of them grew up to (not my words) ‘failed parenting strategies’, where they were told they were special all the time, they could have anything they want in life just because they want it,” Sinek explained.

“Because we’re allowing unfettered access to these dopamine-producing devices and media, it’s becoming hard-wired and as they grow older, too many kids don’t know how to form deep and meaningful relationships – their words not mine. They will admit their friendships are superficial.

“So when stress shows up in their life, they’re not turning to a person, they’re turning to a device, they’re turning to social media.

“We know that people who spend more time on Facebook suffer higher rates of depression than people who spend less time on Facebook.

“These things need balance. Alcohol is not bad, too much alcohol is bad. Gambling is fun, too much gambling is dangerous. There’s nothing wrong with social media or cell phones. It’s the imbalance.”

“If you wake up and you check your phone before you say good morning to your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your spouse, you have an addiction.”

Sinek said that while millennials can have “anything they want” at any time due to instant gratification through apps like Tinder. But the one place they can’t obtain this gratification is in their careers, and it’s here where social media addictions are most detrimental.

“What they see is the summit, but they don’t see the mountain. I don’t care if you go up the mountain quickly or slowly, but there’s still a mountain,” he said.

In a 2015 study the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, where child psychologist Michael Carr-Greg is managing director, similar issues were raised about the addictive nature of technology.

Speaking to Huffington Post Australia, he said it’s “easy to blame the technology” but looking at younger children, social media addiction only affects one in 10.

Carr-Greg explained that the study found moderate use of social media was in fact linked to a decrease in feelings of isolation, and symptoms of anxiety and depression.

“The greatest predictor of well being in the lives of young people is not being good looking, or having more money, or having more positive life events – it’s actually having a rich repertoire of friends,” he added.

“You’ve got to balance between the healthy risks you take online along with the ones you take offline.”