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How social media is programming your brain to be dependent on your phone

HOUSTON – Do you ever find yourself scrolling when you should be doing something else?

Marriage and family therapist, Tracy Lehman, from Nick Finnegan Counseling said there are studies to show a direct link between social media and depression, anxiety, body image issues and suicide.

Here are ways to tell your social media use is hurting your health:

YOU ARE BOMBARDED WITH PICTURES THAT MAKE IT SEEM LIKE OTHERS ARE BETTER OFF

Do you ever give a “like” to something that you are actually jealous of? That is called a hate-like.

“We have it like constantly in our face like ‘you’re failing, this person has it why don’t you have it?’” Lehman said.

She said social class is more obvious/hurtful than it used to be. When someone has a nicer home, neighborhood or the seemingly perfect family, “It’s probably a little bit of recognizing that you’re getting a bigger picture of the world than you ordinarily would.”

YOU FEEL COMPELLED TO CHECK YOUR PHONE OR CHECK WITHOUT THINKING

Making coffee? You’re scrolling. Waiting in line? You’re scrolling. Some people are even breaking the law to look at their phones while driving.

Lehman said it is because we are now programmed to do this.

“[The repeated use of social media] fractures our attention area in our brain," Lehman said. "Even adult brains are influenced by this ... I mean you’ll notice people will check and they had just checked literally three minutes ago. The average brain knows it’s been on social media for like four hours a day on average and will interrupt itself every three minutes to try and look at something.”

YOU’RE ADDICTED TO GETTING LIKES

The apps are designed to get you hooked, and nobody is immune.

“Getting a ‘like’ or getting any notification gives you a dopamine response which is the same thing that happens with drugs or anything that makes us feel good ...," Lehman said. "We want to constantly get those dopamine hits, and so we’ll go check (repeatedly) because we want it because… that’s that reinforcing system. Even at a casino, the stop cue is you run out of money. Right? Your brain says ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ We don’t have that with social media. it will go on forever.”

TURN IT OFF

Set limits.

“We say at the dinner table we’re not going to use phones or if there’s a meal in place,” Lehman said. “There are times that you’re stopping yourself from looking at it."

You can also delete the apps from your phone or hide them within a folder just so you can’t see them and therefore you’re more mindful of when you’re looking at social media, Lehman recommends.