Participating on social media can help build new relationships or rekindle old ones, either way, it’s a great way to communicate with others – until it isn’t.
At first, social media can make us feel closer to other people. We may feel a sense of community with the groups we engage in, and it can calm our anxieties about being all alone, or meet our human need to belong. It helps us feel “liked”.
But for some people, engaging in social media may stop feeling good after a certain point. What was originally supposed to be a convenient way to connect and bring about more social freedom to their relationships can start to feel like a cage where they are forced to check, click, or comment in order to get fed.
How do you know if social media is causing more harm than good?
The CAGE assessment is a screening tool for alcoholism. As a therapist, I have given the assessment to many people over the years. It’s simple, reliable, and can also be used as a self-screening tool to help people identify whether or not they are struggling with addiction or need to further explore their alcohol use.
I have also adapted it as a screening tool that people can utilize to gain a greater awareness of how their social media use is impacting their lives. I hope it will stimulate a larger conversation about mindfulness pertaining to social media use, so that we can engage with it in a regret-free way.
Over time, the therapists at Talkspace have grown ever more concerned about our clients’ use of social media, as they share the problems they encounter. For some, the use of social media has led to obsessive-compulsive behaviors, cyber bullying, unhealthy forms of sexting, sleep deprivation, attention problems, concentration problems, and an avoidance of face-to-face interaction.
If you are concerned about your use of social media, you can take the questionnaire below. Two “yes” responses indicate the possibility that your Social Media use should be further explored.
The Social Media CAGE Questionnaire
(Adapted from: Ewing, J.A. (1984). Detecting alcoholism: The CAGE questionnaire. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, 252, 1905–1907)
Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your use of social media?
Have people Annoyed you by criticizing you on social media or have you had interpersonal problems on social media?
Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your social media use or the amount of time you spend on it?
Have you ever had to check social media first thing in the morning to stay current or you feel anxiety if you do not check social media at the start of your day (Eye opener)?
Use becomes a problem when it absorbs too much of your time and energy. If your online behavior makes you feel bad, is causing you to neglect your relationships or responsibilities, forces you to engage in compulsive behaviors or is negatively impacting other aspects of your life offline, then it’s time to talk. You can always open a chat room with a Talkspace therapist or visit someone face to face. The important thing is that you don’t ignore it and break yourself free.
And of course, we are always here to help you overcome your social media dysphoria – get your freedom back!