Research has found that work overload can lead to mental health problems, particularly burnout, decreased life satisfaction, and work dissatisfaction. It also can contribute to depression, anxiety (Elshaer et al., 2018), and other mental health consequences (Dar et al., 2011). People often cope with work overload by using social media for entertainment and distraction to find an escape (Zhang et al., 2019). Adding to the negative cycle, turning to social media when stressed at work can lead to addictive social media use and social media depression. These factors, of course, often create a loss of work productivity. This is particularly true among individuals who spend long periods using social media.
Addictive Social Media
People spend approximately 2 hours and 27 minutes on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram daily (DataReportal, 2022). If some or most of this time spent on social media is done while the individual is on the job, there can be a notable impact on the individual’s job performance (Cao & Yu, 2019; Yu et al., 2018). Brailovskaiaand and colleagues (2022) conducted a study with 291 employees from different professions to examine work overload, addictive social media use, symptoms of depression, and life satisfaction. They found that work overload was significantly and positively related to addictive social media use and symptoms of depression. Additionally, addictive social media use mediated the relationship between work overload and depression and the relationship between work overload and life satisfaction.
Social Media Depression
These findings indicate that high levels of work overload could elicit addictive social media use, thus leading to mental health problems such as social media depression. The researchers discussed the potential value of people conducting a social media detox and increasing physical activity. These positive strategies could be integrated within the policies of workplaces and organizations to prevent declines in employee mental health due to the effects of addictive social media and social media depression. Improvements in mental health could not only contribute to the well-being of employees but also enhance employee productivity and minimize the effects of addictive social media.
Characteristics of Addictive Social Media Use
The researchers highlighted six typical characteristics of addictive social media use, which are also features of other behavioral addictions:
- Salience–or frequently thinking about social media use
- Tolerance–the amount of time spent on social media increases to feel more of the positive emotions derived from use
- Mood modification–social media use improves mood
- Relapse–attempts to decrease social media use followed by going back to previous patterns of use
- Withdrawal–feeling uneasy or nervous when not using social media or when the person can’t use social media
- Conflict–experiencing conflict with others due to excessive social media use
Importance of Assessing the Presence of Addictive Social Media Use and Social Media Depression
Although addictive social media use and social media depression are not yet acknowledged disorders in the DSM 5, formal diagnoses are not yet standard practice among healthcare providers. However, practitioners are encouraged to recognize and assess the presence of addictive social media use and social media depression. Clinicians are encouraged to examine how these concerns lead to decreased work productivity, job burnout, and poor work-family balance (Cao & Yu, 2019; Zivnuska et al., 2019). They are encouraged to consider interventions targeting addictive social media use as a true behavioral addiction that can lead to social media depression and other negative consequences.
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