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Digital socialization addiction: causes, effects, symptoms, and prevention

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Digital socialization addiction: causes, effects, symptoms, and prevention

Digital socialization addiction is a contemporary phenomenon characterized by a compulsive reliance on digital devices and online platforms for social interaction, often to the detriment of offline relationships and responsibilities. It represents a form of digital addiction where individuals find themselves unable to disengage from virtual socialization.

Digital socialization addiction symptoms are excessive internet use, compulsive checking, depression or anxiety when unable to access their devices or social media accounts, a decline in interest in offline social activities or hobbies, social isolation, irritability or mood changes, withdrawal symptoms, neglect of physical health, a desire for social validation, and disruption of sleep patterns.

Digital socialization addiction effects are eye and musculoskeletal strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, disrupted sleep patterns, and excessive weight loss or obesity. It affects relationships with family and friends, and overall productivity at work or in academics. Digital socialization addiction can significantly affect cognitive functions, emotional regulation, and impulse control.

The root causes of digital socialization addiction are complex, often stemming from a combination of social, environmental, and psychological factors. Factors like lack of awareness and self-control contribute to the addictive nature of digital socialization. Additionally, underlying mental health issues, such as stress and depression can make individuals more susceptible to developing this addiction as a coping mechanism. Marketing and advertising, societal and cultural norms and pressures to be constantly connected may also lead to experiencing digital addiction episodes.

What is digital socialization addiction?

Digital socialization addiction is the individual’s compulsive and excessive use of digital platforms, tools, or apps for social interactions to the extent that it interferes with their daily life, well-being, or mental health. Digital socialization addiction is not listed as an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Certain researchers use digital addiction (DA) as an umbrella term encompassing any form of technology addiction stemming from interactions between humans and technology. The World Health Organization (WHO), officially acknowledged the global issue of technology addiction and highlighted that compulsive internet use leads to difficulties in effectively managing and allocating time, energy, and focus. This addiction can have a cascading impact on various aspects of life, including sleep, motivation, memory, eating habits, mood, social interactions, and lifestyle patterns, all of which are interconnected, as mentioned in the 2022 article “Digital Addiction and Sleep”, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. While technology addiction or digital addiction encompasses a broader range of online activities, digital socialization addiction is more specific to compulsive use and reliance on virtual platforms for social interaction.

Digital socialization addiction can be observed through behavioral changes, such as increased anxiety and depression levels, sleep disturbances, and a decline in academic or work performance due to the substantial time invested in online socialization. In many cases, individuals with digital socialization addiction may also exhibit withdrawal symptoms when access to digital platforms is restricted or unavailable.

Individuals suffering from digital socialization addiction often prioritize their online relationships and activities over real-world interactions, leading to negative consequences in various aspects of life, including deteriorating physical health, declining academic or occupational performance, strained personal relationships, and emotional distress. 

How common is digital socialization addiction?

A man and a woman scrolling on their phones.

The true extent of digital socialization addiction remains uncertain, with ongoing research necessary to establish more definitive statistics and understand the nuances of this modern phenomenon. Additionally, prevalence rates of digital socialization addiction can vary significantly due to the lack of standardized criteria for diagnosing digital socialization addiction, differing methodologies across studies, and the rapidly changing nature of online platforms and user behaviors.

As for digital addiction (DA), the prevalence varies globally, ranging from 8.90% in Eastern nations to 4.60% in Western countries, as stated in the 2022 article “Combatting digital addiction: Current approaches and future directions”, published in Technology in Society Journal.

​​Who is particularly prone to digital socialization addiction?

Adolescents and young adults are particularly prone to digital socialization addiction due to their developmental stage, where peer interaction and social approval are highly sought, making them more likely to excessively engage with digital social platforms.

According to the 2020 book of the Cambridge Scholars Publishing titled “New Communication Approaches in the Digitalized World”, digital addiction is an emerging danger, particularly affecting teenagers, children, middle-aged individuals, and young adults.

Moreover, individuals with mental health conditions like anxiety and depression are also susceptible to digital socialization addiction, as they might over-rely on digital interactions for community and support. A study by Caroline Miller in the Journal of Child Mind Institute titled “Does Social Media Use Cause Depression?”, noted a rise in depression symptoms among adolescents and young adults, correlating with high screen time and rising social media use. Social media can cause depression, exacerbate feelings of isolation, lowered self-esteem, distractions from beneficial activities, and disrupted sleep. 

Additionally, those with traits like introversion, social anxiety, or low self-esteem may be at risk, finding the controlled environment of online interaction more comfortable than face-to-face socialization.

How can we tell if someone is addicted to digital socialization?

To holistically determine if someone is addicted to digital socialization, it is essential to consider the intensity, duration, and impact of digital behaviors on their overall life quality. If their online habits significantly hinder their daily functions, emotional well-being, or physical health, it is a strong indicator of digital socialization addiction.

A 2019 research “Does time spent using social media impact mental health?: An eight-year longitudinal study” published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that participants who spent more time on social media displayed more signs of addiction, including neglect of personal life, escapism, and mood-modifying experiences. Additionally, these individuals often prioritize their virtual relationships over real-life interactions, leading to a noticeable withdrawal from offline social activities and responsibilities.

Physical signs can also be indicative of addiction. These may include sleep disturbances due to excessive nighttime usage and, in extreme cases, conditions like digital eye strain or carpal tunnel syndrome from prolonged device use.

Emotionally, a person addicted to digital socialization might display heightened levels of jealousy, demotivation, loneliness, or dissatisfaction after comparing their lives with others online. A 2020 study from Swansea University titled “Internet use reduces study skills in university students” discovered that students experienced increased levels of loneliness and demotivation to study after staying off the internet for a certain period, showcasing withdrawal symptoms akin to other addictions.

What are the causes of digital socialization addiction?

man and women using their phones.

The causes of digital socialization addiction are listed below.

  • Psychological factors
  • Social factors
  • Environmental factors
  • Psychological vulnerabilities
  • Lack of awareness and self-control
  • Stress and coping mechanisms
  • Cultural and social norms
  • Marketing and advertising

1. Psychological factors

Psychological factors refer to individual mental and emotional processes, including beliefs, emotions, personality traits, and cognitive functions, which influence one’s thoughts, behaviors, and overall well-being.

For individuals with certain predispositions such as anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem, online platforms can offer a space for validation and perceived acceptance. This is especially appealing when real-world interactions might be perceived as challenging or less fulfilling. The dopamine-driven reward systems of many social platforms, which provide instant gratification in the form of likes, comments, and shares, can further exacerbate this addiction, as they tap into the human desire for validation and acceptance.

In this context, Ju-Yu Yen and colleagues in the 2008 issue of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences titled “Psychiatric symptoms in adolescents with Internet addiction: Comparison with substance use”, suggest that virtual spaces serve as alternative coping mechanisms for teens dealing with psychosocial challenges. In adolescence, individuals seek to find a group or a person with whom they can connect and experience a sense of belonging. This is crucial for developing social bonds, which in turn impacts their progress in developmental tasks during both adolescence and adulthood. 

The researchers highlighted that individuals who experience low levels of social connectedness tend to face isolation from society, encounter difficulties in forming connections or a sense of belonging, develop negative self-perceptions and perceptions of others, and tend to exhibit a lack of trust.

2. Social factors

Social factors encompass the influences that stem from one’s relationships, interactions, cultural norms, and societal structures, which can impact one’s perceptions, and shape the way an individual socializes with the world.

Social factors can contribute to digital socialization addiction by influencing an individual’s social behavior and choices. When a person’s social circle heavily uses digital platforms, there can be pressure to conform to similar online behaviors. The desire to fit in or gain social approval can lead individuals to spend more time online than intended. Additionally, the constant flow of social interactions, peer comparisons, and the fear of missing out on digital platforms can intensify the compulsion to engage in online activities excessively.

The study conducted in 2020, titled “Social norms and e-motions in problematic social media use among adolescents,” which was published in Addictive Behaviors Reports, reveals a notable correlation between social factors and problematic social media use among adolescents. This connection between social norms and problematic use underscores the addictive nature of excessive social media consumption. 

Furthermore, the study’s emphasis on the importance of peer influence and emotional regulation in the context of adolescent social media use suggests that these factors can contribute to the development and maintenance of addictive behaviors related to social media. Adolescents may be more prone to addiction-like behaviors when their peers encourage extensive social media use and when their emotional well-being is tied to their online interactions.

3. Environmental factors

A guy holding a phone and sitting in a park bench.

Environmental factors are external conditions that influence individuals at certain stages of their lives, shaping their behaviors, perceptions, and decisions. These factors may include physical surroundings, cultural context, availability of technology, peer influences, family dynamics, and others.

Living in settings with limited opportunities for face-to-face interactions or being in a cultural context that heavily emphasizes digital communication can push individuals towards online platforms. Additionally, easy access to technology, peer pressure to stay connected online, and family dynamics that might not encourage offline interaction can foster dependence on digital means for socialization. In essence, when one’s surroundings and societal context promote or necessitate a heavy reliance on digital tools for communication and connection, the risk of developing a digital socialization addiction increases.

4. Psychological vulnerabilities

Psychological vulnerabilities are natural or developed weaknesses in an individual’s mental and emotional framework that make them more susceptible to specific challenges or external pressures. Common instances include feelings of low self-worth, anxiety, depressive moods, and trauma-related reactions.

According to Sunwoo Kim and Rando Kim’s 2002 study, titled “A Study of Internet Addiction: Status, Causes, and Remedies,” factors contributing to digital addiction encompass personal elements, notably issues related to diminished self-efficacy.

Individuals with psychological vulnerabilities often turn to digital platforms for validation or comfort. The immediate gratification provided by these platforms can serve as a temporary relief from their challenges, becoming a comforting yet addictive escape. As they continue to use these platforms to manage or avoid their vulnerabilities, their dependence can grow, leading to potentially addictive behaviors such as digital socialization addiction.

5. Lack of awareness and self-control

Lack of awareness and self-control refers to an individual’s limited recognition of their own behaviors and the consequences, combined with an inability to regulate or restrain those behaviors, even when they might be detrimental.

Liang L. et al.’s 2016 study titled “Gender differences in the relationship between internet addiction and depression: a cross-lagged study in Chinese adolescents”, published in the Computers in Human Behavior Journal, highlighted that adolescents and young adults represent the most susceptible demographics to digital addiction and depression due to their frequently lower self-control and tendency toward impulsive behavior.

When individuals are unaware of the time they spend on digital platforms or the adverse effects of excessive usage, they are less likely to recognize the onset of addictive behaviors. Coupled with limited self-control, this can lead to prolonged hours of engagement with digital social platforms. Without the self-awareness to recognize these patterns and the self-control to set boundaries, individuals can easily slide into digital socialization addiction, becoming overly reliant on digital interactions for social validation and emotional well-being.

6. Stress and coping mechanisms

Stress refers to the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response while coping mechanisms are strategies individuals employ to manage and deal with these stressful situations.

As per P. Wang et al. 2018 study “Social networking sites addiction and adolescent depression: A moderated mediation model of rumination and self-esteem”, published in the Personality and Individual Differences journal, individuals’ inability to effectively manage real-life challenges or psychological distress may result in a decline in their overall well-being and, in turn, drive them towards digital addiction as a consequence of faulty coping mechanisms.

Stress pushes individuals to seek avenues of relief and distraction. Digital platforms, with their immediate gratification and sense of connection, serve as coping mechanisms for stress. Engaging online may offer temporary relief from stressors, providing a space where individuals feel validated, distracted, or even entertained. Over time, if one consistently turns to digital social platforms as a primary coping strategy, it can lead to dependency, eventually culminating in digital socialization addiction.

7. Cultural and social norms

guy holding a phone

Cultural and social norms are accepted standards of behavior within a particular society or cultural group. They play a crucial role in shaping how individuals interact and make choices within their respective communities.

The 2020 book titled “New Communication Approaches in the Digitalized World”, edited by Mehmet Serdar Erciş and Enes Emre Başar described digital socialization as the adaptation to the digital era, which gives rise to new cultural norms and involves socialization through digital media.

These norms can create pressure on individuals to conform to specific online behaviors and expectations. The desire to adhere to these norms and gain social acceptance in the digital world can lead to addictive behaviors, perpetuating the cycle of digital socialization addiction.

8. Marketing and advertising

Marketing is the strategic process of identifying, creating, and delivering products or services to meet consumer needs. Advertising is a specific component of marketing that involves promoting these products or services to a target audience through various media channels.

Digital socialization addiction can occur when marketing and advertising leverage online platforms to engage users in excessive and compulsive interactions. Through personalized content and constant notifications, these strategies exploit human psychology, triggering a constant desire for social validation and connection, ultimately leading to internet-related behaviors, such as spending excessive time on social media or compulsive online shopping, to satisfy the need for constant digital socialization.

What are the symptoms of digital socialization addiction?

The symptoms of digital socialization addiction are listed below.

  • Excessive internet use: Engaging in an excessive amount of online activity, frequently at the expense of crucial tasks and responsibilities, serves as a clear indicator of digital socialization addiction.
  • Compulsive checking: Compulsive checking is the incessant need to constantly check one’s social media, messages, or notifications, driven by a compulsive urge, which is a key sign of digital socialization addiction.
  • Social isolation: Digital socialization addiction can lead to social isolation, as individuals may prioritize online interactions over face-to-face relationships, resulting in reduced physical socialization.
  • Depression and anxiety: Symptoms of depression and anxiety may surface as a consequence of digital socialization addiction, as excessive online engagement can negatively impact mental health.
  • Irritability or mood changes: Frequent mood swings and heightened irritability can be indicative of an addiction to digital socialization, as the individual’s emotions become closely tied to their online experiences.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Experiencing distress or discomfort when unable to access the internet or social media is a withdrawal symptom of digital socialization addiction.
  • Decreased offline interactions: A decrease in real-world social interactions due to a preference for online communication is a telltale sign of digital socialization addiction.
  • Neglect of physical health: Digital addiction can lead to neglect of physical health, as individuals may spend excessive time online, foregoing exercise, sleep, and proper nutrition.
  • A desire for social validation: Seeking constant validation, likes, and comments on social media platforms is a symptom of digital socialization addiction, reflecting the need for social approval.
  • Decreased ability to focus or poor concentration: Difficulty concentrating on tasks and reduced attention spans may result from a preoccupation with digital socialization, impairing an individual’s ability to focus on real-world responsibilities.

When do digital socialization addiction symptoms usually occur?

Digital socialization addiction symptoms usually occur after prolonged and excessive use of digital social platforms to the extent that it interferes with daily life, responsibilities, and personal well-being.

S. Lee and Y. Chae in their 2007 study titled “Children’s Internet use in a family context: influence on family relationships and parental mediation”, published in the CyberPsychology & Behavior journal, explained the concept of digital addiction within a broader context. They proposed that if individuals frequently document and share their daily activities, have an ongoing compulsion to reveal every facet of their lives on social media, and believe that social media provides valuable insights into people they know only slightly, these behaviors may suggest the presence of digital addiction.

Additionally, they noted that when exposure to shared holiday experiences, gifts, or surprises on social media leads to feelings of jealousy without one’s conscious awareness, it could be an indication of a heightened level of digital addiction.

What are the effects of digital addiction on children?

The effects of digital addiction on children are listed below.

  • Reduced focus and distraction: Excessive engagement in digital socialization can result in reduced focus and decreased involvement in real-life activities among children.
  • Impaired academic performance: Children with digital addiction often have lower academic achievement due to distractions and reduced study time.
  • Procrastination: Excessive digital socialization can lead to procrastination and delayed responsibilities at school.
  • Impaired sleep patterns: Irregular sleep schedules and late-night screen time can disrupt sleep quality and quantity.
  • Poor time management: Digital addiction can lead to inefficient time management, affecting children’s daily routines and responsibilities.
  • Social isolation: Children may isolate themselves from real-life social interactions in favor of online connections.
  • Physical health issues: Sedentary behavior associated with digital addiction can contribute to health problems.
  • Emotional and psychological impact: Digital addiction can cause anxiety, depression, and emotional distress.
  • Strained family relationships: Digital addiction can strain relationships with family members, leading to communication difficulties and conflicts.

How does digital socialization addiction affect the body?

two woman holding the sign of obesity

Digital socialization addiction affects the body by contributing to issues such as eye and musculoskeletal strain, disrupted sleep patterns,  carpal tunnel syndrome, and fluctuations in body weight, including both excessive weight loss and obesity.

Eye strain particularly manifests as computer vision syndrome (CVS). According to the American Optometric Association, CVS or digital eye strain encompasses a range of eye and vision-related problems resulting from prolonged computer use, including headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes.

Prolonged sedentary behavior associated with excessive digital device usage can contribute to a range of musculoskeletal problems, including back, shoulder, and neck pain, as claimed in the 2021 study “Musculoskeletal pain and sedentary behaviour in occupational and non-occupational settings: a systematic review with meta-analysis”, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

Digital socialization addiction is defined by the excessive and prolonged use of digital devices like smartphones, computers, and tablets, often involving repetitive activities such as typing, swiping, and scrolling. Research published in the Turkish Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in 2022, titled “The relationship between carpal tunnel syndrome, smartphone use, and addiction: A cross-sectional study,” suggests that this prolonged and excessive use of digital devices can reduce the space around the median nerve and subsequently elevate pressure within the carpal tunnel. This increased pressure results in a noticeable decrease in the velocity of sensory nerve conduction, contributing to the development or exacerbation of carpal tunnel syndrome.

The blue light emitted by digital devices, especially when used before bedtime, can interfere with melatonin production, a hormone responsible for regulating sleep. This interference can lead to difficulties in falling asleep or maintaining a deep sleep. Harvard Health Publishing has reported on the effects of blue light exposure on melatonin production and its subsequent impact on sleep in the 2020 article titled “What is blue light? The effect blue light has on your sleep and more”. 

Excessive screen time and a sedentary lifestyle associated with digital addiction can contribute to weight gain and obesity. Individuals spending extended hours online are more likely to engage in physical inactivity and poor dietary habits. On the other hand, digital addiction can also lead to weight loss due to neglecting meals in favor of online interactions. The impact of digital socialization addiction on weight can vary from person to person, depending on their specific digital behaviors and lifestyle choices.

How does digital socialization addiction affect the brain?

Digital socialization addiction affects the brain through the continuous release of dopamine, which reinforces the reward system, leading to the compulsive desire for online interactions and social validation. This can result in altered neural pathways, affecting cognitive functions, emotional regulation, and impulse control. Over time, it may also lead to structural changes in the brain, impacting an individual’s overall mental well-being and quality of life.

The 2009 study “Cognitive control in media multitaskers” published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that frequent use of multimedia devices leads to shorter attention spans and increased distractibility. This reflects the brain’s adaptation to constantly shifting attention between different tasks and sources of information.

The immediate urge to check notifications is reflected in studies around smartphone usage. For example, a 2015 study “Can Disordered Mobile Phone Use Be Considered a Behavioral Addiction? An Update on Current Evidence and a Comprehensive Model for Future Research” from the Current Addiction Reports highlighted that high-frequency users of smartphones showed signs of diminished impulse control and altered decision-making processes, as well as difficulties in focusing.

Another study titled “Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults” from the 2017 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine linked high social media use to high reports of depressive symptoms and social isolation among young adults.

How is digital socialization addiction diagnosed?

A girl scrolling on her phone

Currently, there are no clinical diagnostic criteria for digital socialization addiction, but if an individual excessively or compulsively uses digital platforms to the detriment of their physical health, mental well-being, or real-life relationships, it may be indicative that the person is addicted to digital socialization.

Digital socialization addiction potentially can be diagnosed through self-reported behaviors, clinical assessment, and evaluation of the impact of excessive digital socialization on an individual’s life. However, there is limited consensus on standardized diagnostic criteria and scales for this relatively new phenomenon.

What are the available treatments for digital socialization addiction?

As of today, there are no clinically approved treatments specifically tailored for digital socialization addiction, given its recent emergence. Nevertheless, treatments and interventions used for other digital or behavioral addictions can be applied to address digital socialization addiction. Some available treatment options for digital socialization addiction are listed below.

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy: CBT is a psychotherapy approach that aims to change unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior. In regards to digital socialization addiction, CBT can help individuals recognize and modify the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their addiction, offering coping strategies to reduce the reliance on online interactions.
  • Family therapy: Family therapy involves working with a person’s family to address addiction issues collectively. In the context of digital socialization addiction, it can help improve family dynamics, communication, connectedness, and support systems, which may reduce the need for excessive online socialization.
  • Mindfulness and meditation: These techniques promote self-awareness and emotional regulation. In treating digital socialization addiction, mindfulness, and meditation can help individuals better manage their urges, cravings, and emotional triggers related to online socialization.
  • Digital detox programs: Digital detox programs involve temporarily disconnecting from electronic devices, particularly smartphones and social media. These programs allow individuals to reset their digital habits, reduce their online socialization, and establish healthier offline routines.
  • Medication: In some cases, medication prescribed by healthcare professionals may be considered to address underlying mental health issues associated with digital socialization addiction. Medications can help manage co-occurring conditions like depression or anxiety that contribute to the addiction.

How to get help for digital socialization addiction?

To get help for digital socialization addiction, one should begin by recognizing the impact it is making on their life. In this context, gaining knowledge about the risks and consequences of digital addiction is crucial.

Setting clear boundaries for digital device usage and involving support groups, like friends and family, in the recovery process is essential. Support groups are very helpful because many digital addicts use digital platforms to compensate for a lack of social support. Periodic digital detoxes can also help in breaking the addiction cycle. For severe cases, consulting a mental health professional for a personalized treatment plan, which may encompass therapy or medication, is advisable.

How to prevent digital socialization addiction?

Preventing digital socialization addiction involves adopting practical measures, such as turning off phone notifications, managing screen time, setting up healthy sleep patterns, maintaining face-to-face interactions, monitoring the use of digital devices, reducing the number of devices and screen time, setting tech-free hours, doing physical exercises or pursuing hobbies. 

Providing education and raising awareness about the risks and consequences of digital socialization addiction can help individuals make informed choices and reduce their dependence on online interactions.

Additionally, for children or adolescents parental controls and monitoring tools can help parents or guardians manage and restrict their child’s online activities or limit excessive socialization.

Researchers Melissa G. Hunt et al. in the 2018 study titled “No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression”, found that controlling and limiting social media use to 30 minutes a day significantly decreases anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline. Additionally, it diminishes feelings of loneliness and depression, reducing levels of digital addiction.

What are some simple methods to spend less time on devices?

Some simple methods to help an individual spend less time on devices are listed below.

  • Setting device-free periods: Setting clear daily or weekly restrictions on the amount of time spent on social media platforms will help individuals manage their screen time more effectively and reduce the negative impacts of excessive digital engagement. 
  • Removing unnecessary applications: Uninstalling apps that are time-consuming and constantly distract one’s attention will free up valuable time and mental space, enabling a more focused and productive digital experience. 
  • Establishing non-tech zones: Defining certain physical areas, such as rooms or spaces, where the use of digital devices is not permitted will encourage a healthier balance between online and offline life.
  • Setting clear daily activity goals: Defining specific daily objectives for non-digital activities, pursuing hobbies, and encouraging participation in offline interactions will help foster a balanced life and nurture mental well-being. 
  • Practicing time management skills: By actively practicing time management skills, individuals can create structured schedules that prioritize essential tasks and allocate specific blocks of time for digital device usage. 
  • Disabling non-essential notifications: Turning off notifications from less important applications will reduce interruptions and the compulsion to frequently check devices.
  • Opting for traditional reading materials: Choosing physical books, magazines, or other printed reading materials over digital sources can help minimize reliance on digital platforms while retaining the benefits of reading without screen exposure.

What are the risk factors for digital socialization addiction?

A woman scrolling on her phone

The risk factors for digital socialization addiction include a history of depression, anxiety, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Individuals with these conditions might be more prone to addiction due to their need for validation, low self-esteem, or feelings of loneliness which can drive them to excessive online socializing as a way to compensate.

Other significant risk factors are peer influence and lack of parental supervision. If someone is in an environment where extensive use of digital platforms for socialization is the norm, they might feel compelled to stay online just to keep up. Furthermore, cultural and environmental factors can contribute to developing digital socialization addiction.

Living in areas with high-speed internet and widespread tech access can facilitate digital consumption. The 2019 article by Kerebih Asrese titled “Online activities as risk factors for internet addiction among students in Bahir Dar University, North West Ethiopia: Hierarchical regression model” exemplifies the above-mentioned statements.

How do social media apps make addiction worse?

Social media apps can make addiction worse by triggering psychological responses, such as likes, comments, and notifications, which create a sense of instant gratification. This instant gratification stimulates the brain’s reward center, releasing dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reinforcement. Users become conditioned to seek these rewards repeatedly, fostering addictive behavior. 

The 2011 issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health titled “Online Social Networking and Addiction—A Review of the Psychological Literature”, provides a comprehensive review of the existing literature on the addictive potential of social networking and its associated psychological consequences. The ego-centered design of social networking sites (SNSs) can encourage addictive behaviors and consequently act as an incentive for individuals to utilize them excessively, leading to neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood-modifying experiences, tolerance, and concealing. 

Social media apps employ algorithms that personalize content, ensuring users are exposed to material that aligns with their interests and keeps them engaged. This constant stream of tailored content encourages prolonged app usage, as users find it difficult to disengage from the content they find personally appealing.

Moreover, the infinite scroll and auto-play features make it effortless to keep scrolling and consuming content, making it challenging for users to set their own limits. The constant stream of updates, posts, and news feeds creates a fear of missing out which drives compulsive checking of social media.

What is the difference between digital socialization addiction and social media addiction?

The difference between digital socialization addiction and social media addiction lies in their scope and focus. Digital socialization addiction is a broader concept, encompassing excessive engagement with various digital platforms and technologies, extending beyond social media. On the other hand, social media addiction is a specific subset of digital socialization addiction, concentrating solely on the compulsive and problematic use of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others.

What is the difference between digital socialization addiction and internet addiction?

A woman lying on sofa using her phone.

The difference between digital socialization addiction and internet addiction is rooted in the specific aspects and nature of behaviors they encompass. 

Internet addiction is a broad term that encompasses a variety of behaviors related to the excessive consumption of the internet, personal computers, and mobile devices. On the other hand, digital socialization addiction specifically revolves around excessive engagement with digital communication and social media platforms. 

Both share common features, such as loss of control, compulsive use, and reliance on virtual platforms, but their specific foci differentiate them in terms of the types of digital behaviors that individuals become addicted to.