Addiction to social media is possibly the most acceptable and widely spread addiction known today. 75% of French teenagers use their phones the second they wake up, and half of these teenagers readily admit that they are addicted to using their phones. The intensity of the addiction comes from ‘sufferers’ having little motivation to do anything about an addiction that is mostly enjoyable and generally harmless. However, research has shown that endlessly refreshing your various social media newsfeeds activates the same part of the brain as cocaine. It has been suggested that a ‘Facebook addiction’ could even show up in a brain scan.

So what is it about your phone that makes it impossible to put down?

One of the biggest temptations is the ‘pull to refresh’ option. This invention is one of the reasons we are able to spend hours on sites like Twitter and Facebook.  Ofir Turel, professor of Information Systems and Decision Sciences at California State University, summed up the lure of refreshing the page in this short analogy: “If, every time we open the fridge door we see the same cake, we will not be as tempted to eat it as if we see a different cake every time we open the fridge door.”

You can see how this applies to social media: if we looked at the same posts every time we went on Facebook, it would not be as appealing.

Anthropologist Natasha Dow Schüll explains that when we enter the addiction zone, we lose all concept of time and we even lose our own self-perception temporarily. This sensation is why when we look down at our phone for what feels like a few minutes, in reality hours have passed.

It is possible to overcome this addiction once a motivation to curb social media use is found. While using Facebook may trigger the same part of the brain as the consumption of drugs, the impulse system is much less powerful with social media addiction.