Social media triggers may contribute to compulsive behavior online, San Antonio mental health advocates say

‘There’s a lot of intentional triggers and manipulations built into our platforms,” says CEO of Rise Recovery

The good, the bad and the ugly effects of social media are the subjects of the latest mental health self-help article on KSAT.com.
The good, the bad and the ugly effects of social media are the subjects of the latest mental health self-help article on KSAT.com.

SAN ANTONIO – As we slowly emerge out of the coronavirus pandemic, it may be time to ask the question: “Am I in charge of my social media, or is it in charge of me?” The good, the bad and the ugly effects of social media are the subjects of the latest mental health self-help article on KSAT.com.

Evita Morin, CEO of Rise Recovery, has studied all sorts of substance abuse issues but notes that many addictions don’t require a drug or a drink. Social media use or abuse is one of them, too.

“I know it’s a red flag for me if I’ve got my kid pulling on my jacket, pulling on me and trying to get my attention from social media. That’s a sign that I’m probably a little over-involved in it,” Morin said.

Morin says social media is not officially designated as a behavior addiction yet. Still, it’s not for lack of trying by social media companies that tailor their sites to make sure your pleasure sensors are activated every time you log on.

“There’s a lot of intentional triggers and manipulations built into our platforms, using sounds and visuals that cue us to experience reward every time we see a like, hear a ding, or see a notice,” Morin said.

She added that these triggers are all things that help train our brains to act more compulsively on social media.

KSAT.com self-help author Talli Dolge, CEO of Jewish Family Service, says all this manipulation is intentional to feed the dopamine in your brain so that you come back for more. During the limiting of social activities of the pandemic, our cellphones became more than a piece of technology, she said.

“If I’m looking at social media, I’m having these visceral effects, either for really good or really negatively,” Dolge said. “Our brain is saying, ‘I need more, I need more likes.’ and we’re not equipped to deal with that.”

Dolge’s suggestions in her column are to take stock then start using new tools to deal with our 24/7 social media world:

  • SET LIMITS
  • JUST TURN IT OFF
  • CHANGE YOUR FOCUS
  • EXPRESS GRATITUDE

“A great new book. Check out new music. Write a physical letter to a friend. There’s so many ways that we can reengage,” Morin suggests.

The details on how to accomplish all four suggestions can be found in the article on KSAT.com, available by clicking here.

Morina and Dolge say they are expecting that, in the coming months and years, there will be a lot more written and studied about what has happened to our brains and our emotional health as a result of the 24/7 social media habits we have developed. They agree that many believe the rise in the demand for mental health services for depression and anxiety over the last year may partly be attributed to social media.

In the meantime, they recommend you start becoming more aware as a first step to check whether your habit has become an addiction.


About the Author:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.