What's the first thing you did when you woke up in the morning?

I pressed snoozed but then I picked up my phone (I'm ashamed to admit this) and I trawled social media. You know those startling numbers about how long teens spend online that came out yesterday? Let's just say I'm in no place to be wagging my finger at today's youth. Some of it can be excused as work: Twitter is often the place you see news alerts first and trending things you might need to know about show up on Facebook.

But in reality, I'm an addict. Yep. My name is Nadine Higgins and I'm a social media addict. The scary thing is I think half the country might need to be in a support group with me and I'm worried our addiction is making us less social, and more depressed.

Be honest. Are you guilty of checking your phone constantly, even when it hasn't beeped? Do you feel anxious when you can't find your phone? Do you check it at the lights, scroll through like a zombie when you're walking down the street and while you're meant to be listening to your partner or watching TV?


And look around. In the doctor's waiting room, the park or the bus stop - everyone has their heads buried in their phones, opting for online world over real life. Sometimes you see groups of friends at dinner all sitting around on their phones when they could be like, I dunno, talking to each other. It's considered such an accepted communal space that they even report what people say and do there on the news.

Yep, it's not just the kids is it? The country is full of addicts.

A study from Harvard University showed self-disclosure online fires up a part of the brain that also lights up when taking addictive substances like cocaine. Cocaine!

I know it's a waste of time, I know it's probably rotting my brain and often it doesn't make me feel very good, but I still do it.

That last bit, how it makes people feel, is the bit I reckon that is the real worry.

A study out this week from a Yale professor confirmed that the more people use Facebook, the worse they feel. They actually proved that link. Put that together with how long we spend online and on social media and combine with what we know about demand for mental health services, anxiety and our suicide statistics, and suddenly having a country full of social media addicts is no laughing matter.

I'm not saying it's not the root of all evil and we must all quit it cold turkey. It can connect us, inform us - and who doesn't love a good cat video. But it's also used for bullying, boasting, shaming, trolling - and we tend to forget that we're viewing everybody else's lives as a posed, filtered, photoshopped highlights reel and that can make you feel inadequate, anxious and even lonely.

So in all seriousness, if Facebook or Instagram or whatever is starting to make you feel that way, it's time to dilute its effect with a bit of unfiltered reality. Go grab a coffee with the person who cares enough to call you on your birthday and not just write on your wall.


Where to get help:

• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.