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Watching a lot of videos? Check if you are addicted to YouTube
Watching a lot of videos? Check if you are addicted to YouTube

The researchers explained what makes us watch video after video for hours and get attached to bloggers.

Watching a lot of videos? Check if you have a YouTube addiction
Watching a lot of videos? Check if you have a YouTube addiction

YouTube is one of the most popular social networks in the world: users spend over a billion hours watching videos every day. The platform has changed the television, media and film market in many ways.

Many of us can no longer imagine our life without watching videos, and it is reasonable to assume that this is a new type of addiction. There are few scientific studies on this topic, but they are still published. The life hacker figured out whether the excessive passion for YouTube videos can be counted as addictions.

What you need to know about dependencies

How satisfaction shapes addictive behavior

Addiction (addiction) is an addiction, an obsessive need. Researchers distinguish chemical (from alcohol, certain drugs and other substances) and behavioral (from gambling, television, smartphone) addiction.

Addictions arise by C. Smith. Behavioral Addictions, What Are They and How Does One Develop? / AddictionCenter due to the fact that a certain stimulus excites parts of the brain. They produce the pleasure hormone dopamine and are responsible for reward functions. In this case, both a substance and an action can be a stimulus.

The brain perceives the stimulus โ†’ hormone release sequence as a dopamine reward and creates an unhealthy habit. She, in turn, develops into an irresistible unconscious craving.

Why behavioral addiction is almost the same as chemical addiction

Studies have shown C. Smith. Behavioral Addictions, What Are They and How Does One Develop? / AddictionCenter that behavioral addictions activate the same parts of the brain as when using addictive substances (such as alcohol). Certain behaviors can also generate significant dopamine releases and addiction.

There are also other Social Media Addiction / AddictionCenter signs by which behavioral addictions are similar to chemical ones. Let's take a look at them using the example of social media addiction:

  • The addict's mood improves with access to social networks.
  • A person feels the importance of social networks, concern about them.
  • The time spent on social networks is constantly increasing.
  • The addict has conflicts with loved ones due to the inability to access social networks. For example, a person is asked to go to the store, but he does not want to break away from flipping the tape and responds aggressively.
  • Uncontrolled returns to dependent behavior occur. A person understands that he spends too much time on social networks, and tries to limit their use or completely abandon them, but this impulse is not enough for a long time.
  • An addict experiences unpleasant physical and emotional sensations when access to social networks is limited or stopped. Among them may be: fear of missing something important, an irresistible desire to check notifications on a smartphone, a feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world.

The American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists only one type of addiction, gambling. However, the document was released back in 2013 and requires revision.

In 2014, the American Psychiatric Association recognized the idea of Internet addiction, pioneered by American psychiatrist Ivan Goldberg back in 1995. Nearly 20 years later, psychologists from the University of Hong Kong published a study in which they concluded that about 6% of all Internet users abuse the Internet.

The World Health Organization is also concerned with the problems of modern digital addictions. For example, addiction to video games will be included in the 11th edition of the WHO International Classification of Diseases.

Social Media Addiction / AddictionCenter behavioral addictions can lead to the fact that a person ignores real life, substitutes addictive behavior for work and study, experiences mood swings, anxiety, depression and loneliness.

How YouTube Addiction Linked to Other Technology Addictions

Considering addiction to YouTube, it is necessary to put it on a par with other online addictions: from smartphones, the Internet and social networks. We can say that it is their special case: to access YouTube you need the Internet, it itself is a social network, and more than 70% of the viewing time is on mobile devices.

At the same time, nomophobia (anxiety due to the inability to use a smartphone), according to some data, affects 41โ€“51% of gadget users, and according to others - 61% of men and 71% of women.

YouTube addiction can also be linked to video game addiction. For example, the huge popularity of game streams on the platform can indicate this.

But there are also distinctive features inherent only in dependence on video hosting. For example, YouTube users are much less likely to use it for self-expression. On other social networks, self-stories take up to 80% of activity (more than twice as much as in real life). The overwhelming majority of YouTube users do not produce content, but consume it.

At the same time, the researchers believe that the methods used to study the television audience (which also only consumes video) are not suitable for studying online services.

The thing is that on YouTube a person chooses what to watch, but on TV this choice is limited to the TV program. Also, the online service provides users with greater interactivity. They can directly communicate with content creators and other viewers in the comments and chats of live broadcasts, and easily and quickly share videos with friends and family.

In general, scientists believe that a minority of users are addicted to YouTube. This correlates with data on the relatively small number of people dependent on social media in general.

How YouTube addiction is formed

One of the few studies on YouTube as a subject of addiction was conducted in 2017 in India. Scientists surveyed 410 students who used video hosting. Among them were both content creators and ordinary viewers. It turned out that when watching a video, users experience psychological and social satisfaction - from communication, involvement in a community with similar interests.

YouTube also helps to fulfill the need for creativity, and for this it is not necessary to create your own blog: it is enough to comment on other people's videos. And the need for communication is satisfied by interaction with influencers, or opinion leaders - bloggers whose views or lifestyle are close to a particular user. Moreover, this interaction does not always have to be direct and reciprocal.

In this regard, even a special term has appeared - "parasocial relations". It denotes a phenomenon when an ordinary media user begins to "communicate" with a media person, and communication is more of an illusion. The fan knows (or thinks he knows) everything about the "star", she is a part of his world. But for a blogger or streamer, the user remains one of the thousands of faceless followers.

Research by French scientists proves that YouTube plays a big role in shaping parasocial relationships. According to the authors of the study, they can cause dependence on video hosting, and they themselves appear due to social anxiety - excessive shyness, fear of the real world.

Signs of YouTube addiction

To understand what YouTube addiction looks like, let's give the floor to those who consider themselves addicted.

Domingo Cullen in an interview with The Guardian says that he could spend on YouTube, lying in a fetal position, for more than three hours in a row. He just indiscriminately watched the videos that the algorithm recommended to him: from the best tricks of Lionel Messi and cute videos about animals to videos with road accidents and recordings of surgical operations.

It was not uncommon for Cullen to talk to no one for days. Over time, he began to visit YouTube not only on weekends, but also on weekdays. Watching long documentaries was not easy for him - it was easier to "swallow" a bunch of short clips about nothing. Domingo believes that his passion for commercials stems from childhood, when his parents severely limited the time he watched TV.

A graphic designer from Austria under the nickname Scollurio in his blog on Medium, says that he spent about 5 hours a day on YouTube and could not sleep without him.

You can also use the following six questions to identify YouTube addiction. Psychologists recommend M. D. Griffiths. Addicted to Social Media? / Psychology Today to resort to them when you realize that you are no longer in control of the time spent on the platform (or on any other resources).

  1. How often do you think about YouTube and how long does it take?
  2. Do you want to spend more time watching videos?
  3. Are you using YouTube videos to take your mind off your problems?
  4. How often have you tried to reduce the time you spend watching?
  5. Do you get anxious if you are unable to access YouTube for some reason?
  6. Have you ever harmed your job or school because of watching a video?

If you answered yes to all the questions, you may have an addiction. But only a specialist will say for sure. If you have heard the affirmative answer several times - you are just a regular user of the video hosting and, most likely, there is nothing to worry about yet. But even if there is no addiction, you shouldn't abuse YouTube.

What are the negative effects of excessive YouTube viewing?

Hanging on YouTube can have several negative consequences - for children and teens as well as adult viewers.

  • Idealizing bloggers' lives leads to poor mental health and low self-esteem. A person who has seen enough of a "successful life" on the screen begins to feel like a failure. This condition is called loss of profit syndrome.
  • The parasocial relationships mentioned above are asymmetrical and unidirectional. They give nothing to the majority of YouTube users: the subscriber, commenting on the video, interacts with the blogger, but the blogger does not address him specifically, but to everyone at once. And most often not directly, but through content.
  • On YouTube, as in other social networks, users are often harassed. Sometimes it can even turn Social Media Addiction / AddictionCenter into bullying - cyberbullying.
  • Watching short "light" videos gives rise to unwillingness to delve into complex formats: it's easier to watch a vlog or stream than a documentary or a lecture. It becomes more difficult for a person to benefit from such a pastime.
  • The mantra "another video" interferes with healthy sleep and rest.

What to do if you think you are addicted

However, it is still not worth demonizing the influence of YouTube. There is a lot of useful content on the platform, and experts do not recommend rashly cutting the Internet wire if it seems to you that the platform has begun to take up too much space in your life. In such a situation, the best solution would be M. D. Griffiths / Addicted to Social Media? / Psychology Today is not a complete rejection, but a controlled use. Here's what you can do.

On YouTube

1. Find out the average viewing time

Maybe you don't spend that much time on video. You can view your statistics only in the mobile application. To do this, you need to click on the account icon in the upper right corner of the screen and select the "Watching time" item.

Internet Addiction: Average YouTube Watch Time
Internet Addiction: Average YouTube Watch Time
Internet Addiction: Average YouTube Watch Time
Internet Addiction: Average YouTube Watch Time

2. Disable automatic start of next video

In the desktop version of the site, the corresponding switch can be found in the upper right corner, above the recommended videos feed.

How to overcome internet addiction: disable the automatic start of the next video
How to overcome internet addiction: disable the automatic start of the next video

In the mobile application, you need to click on the account icon again. In the drop-down menu, select the "Settings" โ†’ "Autoplay" item and turn off the corresponding toggle switch.

Disable autoplay on YouTube mobile
Disable autoplay on YouTube mobile
Disable autoplay on YouTube mobile
Disable autoplay on YouTube mobile

3. Limit viewing time and disable notifications

In the YouTube mobile app, you can set up a reminder to take a break and / or go to bed, choose a quiet night mode, and turn off notifications for new videos completely. To do this, go back to the "Viewing time". Here, by scrolling through the screen, you can find the corresponding switches.

How to overcome internet addiction: limit the time you watch videos and turn off notifications
How to overcome internet addiction: limit the time you watch videos and turn off notifications
How to overcome internet addiction: limit the time you watch videos and turn off notifications
How to overcome internet addiction: limit the time you watch videos and turn off notifications

With internet and gadgets

Digital detox will be a good prevention: reducing the time for using gadgets, turning off all notifications, refusing to use devices during meals and before bed. This can be helped by special blocking applications and timers, such as Checky or SPACE. With them, it will be easier not to be distracted on YouTube during work and school hours, or to refuse it altogether if you want to solve the problem radically.

With habits in general

The most successful type of online addiction treatment in psychiatry is considered to be cognitive behavioral therapy. Simply put, it is the formation of positive habits instead of negative ones. In fact, you need to learn how to enjoy not only watching videos, but also from other more useful activities: an interesting hobby, sports or other activity. It is also worth learning how to do work first, without distraction, and then calmly rest.

For example, Scollurio writes that reading before bed helped him reduce his YouTube watch time from five hours a day to three a week. He also stopped using his smartphone in the toilet and started watching documentaries on Netflix and Amazon. He also gave up the idea that the included video must be watched, and it became easy to turn off the video if you need to get ready for bed or go on business.

Do not rush to diagnose yourself and ascribe a non-existent addiction: far from always it really is. If you want to spend less time on YouTube or other social networks, use the above tips. But if you think that the situation is out of your control, it is better to see a therapist.