Is social media, a ubiquitous platform in the digital age, the root of a modern paradox: causing widespread feelings of isolation even as it brings us (virtually) together? Gillian Galen, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at McLean Hospital, says there’s overwhelming evidence that it is. And this paradox could be even more harmful to brains, particularly young brains, than previously understood.

"Social media is an addiction,” said Dr. Galen, who specializes in mood disorders and self-destructive behavior. “And it's an addiction that is now socially acceptable." She recently joined “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski and Cosmopolitan Editor-in-Chief Jessica Pels to discuss the science behind social media and its risks. She noted increasing rates of depression, loneliness, and anxiety as the pursuit of “likes” takes up more and more of young people’s time.

Indeed, there is evidence that the dopamine rush behind that craving for “likes” is the same rush associated with food, drugs, sex, and gambling.

“We get a rush, you feel good, we feel this sense of connection and knowing everything. It's hard to get people to put that down,” Dr. Galen said. But she fears that kids are overvaluing that virtual sense of connection while losing their actual connections with others—and their sense of self-worth.

The key to building healthy social media habits, she added, is to help young people break its click/reward cycle. “Help them learn to make their own space from it so they start to feel less tethered to it and that they need it less,” added Dr. Galen. “When they start to feel like they need it less, then the idea of putting it down [is] okay… and then [they] actually can feel good [and] go back to it and get all those benefits again.”

Read more at NBC News.

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