Musicians, Social Media Addiction and Mental Health

A musician friend of mine who uses social media extensively to promote her music indicated that she was taking some time off of it.

My response:

In this post, I want to expand on that reply.

Social media marketing and musicians

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It’s your job as a professional musician to promote your music in whatever way you deem most effective. And because you can get instant feedback from people around the world on your content, social media can be very effective.

But on the other hand, it’s way too easy for musicians to become addicted to social media. Whether we admit it or not, we musicians seek adulation for our songs, performances and even our physical appearance. And for every Like, Comment or Follow we get, our brain gets a hit of dopamine, not dissimilar to the dopamine hit someone gets when taking a hard drug such as heroin.

But the worst is when your new post doesn’t get the Likes, Comments and Follows you were hoping for. For someone who’s really addicted to social media, that’s akin to heroin withdrawal and the mental crash that comes with it. An extreme example of this was a 19-year old British teen who committed suicide because her posts weren’t getting enough Likes.

I have personal experience with this. When I started out on Instagram, I would post these guitar videos and started getting many Followers, Likes and Comments – it was great! However, I felt myself becoming addicted and from that day forward, I consciously monitored my social media usage.

Social media addiction and mental health

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

And you know what? These social media companies know their services can be addictive. They like this because a captive audience of social media addicts allows them to sell more advertising and generate more profits on their backs.

It’s no coincidence that rates of mental illness have increased in correlation with the expansion of social media into broader society. Consider the following data:

  • A 62% increase in hospitalizations for American females ages 15-19 and a 189% increase in females ages 10-14 due to self harm, beginning in 2010-2011.
  • American social psychologist Johnathan Haidt explains that this spike is due to the great amount of time spent on social media because people have the tendency to check social media as often as they can and the psychological effects it has on the brain. If a user is feeling distressed, media can release dopamine into the brain, and they eventually find themselves dependent upon it. Former Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris refers to this as a “digital pacifier”. The reliance on technology in this manner can lead to the inability to properly deal with emotions because it alters the development of one’s frontal cortex. The release of dopamine makes technology work similar to addictive drugs, such as alcohol or nicotine.
  • A 70% increase in suicide for females ages 15-19 and a 151% increase in females ages 10-14, beginning when social media was first introduced in 2009.
  • There is a phenomenon of patients wanting to receive plastic surgery in order to look more similar to a picture with a filter on it due to ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’. This can lead to a body dysmorphic disorder and the lowering of one’s self-esteem. This is because individuals may have a constant feeling that they should take on an appearance similar to the one they have on social media, leading to a spike in individuals diagnosed with depression. Snapchat introduced the first filters in January 2015. Since then, there has been a significant increase in body dysmorphic disorders (BDD), which negatively affects one’s mental and physical functionalities. Harris explains that increased media usage can lead children to “compare themselves to unrealistic standards of beauty”.

So don’t get played for a sucker by these social media companies – do what’s required to promote your music, but be conscious of what they’re attempting to do to you and monitor your social media usage accordingly.