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Do You Have Social Media Disorder?

These 9 questions will tell you if you are an enthusiast or disordered user.

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Social media has been around for about 15 years, and growing dramatically the whole time. As it has become an important element of social interaction, many people have characterized other people's use of it as problematic. "Addiction" is a word thrown around a lot, along with anecdotes of young people sitting home, alone, only interacting online.

These fears are dramatically overstated. Simply spending a few hours a day on social media does not mean there is a problem. Highly-engaged users are not necessarily addicted users. However, for some people, the use of social media does cross a line. How can we tell the difference?

The Social Media Disorder Scale is a 9-question survey designed to distinguish healthy and unhealthy social media use. It is well-vetted and psychologically sound. The questions test the impact of social media use on the dimensions of preoccupation, tolerance, withdrawal, persistence, displacement, interpersonal problems, deception, escape, and conflict.

For each of the 9 statements below, simply answer yes or no.

During the past year, have you ...

  1. ... regularly found that you can't think of anything else but the moment that you will be able to use social media again?
  2. ... regularly felt dissatisfied because you wanted to spend more time on social media?
  3. ... often felt bad when you could not use social media?
  4. ... tried to spend less time on social media, but failed?
  5. ... regularly neglected other activities (e.g. hobbies, sport) because you wanted to use social media?
  6. ... regularly had arguments with others because of your social media use?
  7. ... regularly lied to your parents or friends about the amount of time you spend on social media?
  8. ... often used social media to escape from negative feelings?
  9. ... had serious conflict with your parents, brother(s) or sister(s) because of your social media use?

If you answered "yes" to five or more of these items, you meet the criteria for a formal diagnosis of a "disordered social media user." While there is no formal diagnosis of Social Media Disorder in the DSM-5, this study closely tracks measurements for Internet Gaming disorder - which is listed as a Condition for Further Study (a "tentative disorder").

In their study, the researchers who developed the scale found that higher scores on this scale are correlated with higher levels of depression and attention deficit.

If you fear your social media use may be problematic, look a bit deeper at your use. Consider taking the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale survey, which I wrote about last week. A therapist can talk to you about techniques, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, that can help you break your problematic habits in a relatively short amount of time, so you can maintain your social life in a healthy way both online and offline.


van den Eijnden, R. J., Lemmens, J. S., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2016). The social media disorder scale. Computers in Human Behavior, 61, 478-487.

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