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Mirror, mirror on my Facebook wall

Jordana Borensztajn "desperately wants to be liked", according to her own promotional material.

Jordana Borensztajn "desperately wants to be liked", according to her own promotional material.

It all starts out as some harmless fun – the buzz from seeing the little red notification pop-up whenever someone likes your photo or re-tweets your musings – but before long you are hooked, and need more.

Social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter are pushing these virtual pills onto millions, if not billions, of social media users who habitually check their phones and other smart devices for a new hit of feedback, praise, reassurance, or criticism (anything, really).

While many might be held hostage by this habit, Melbourne comedian Jordana Borensztajn has made a career out of managing hers.

The 31-year-old self-confessed iPhone and social media addict has created two shows, including her latest Like Me, Love Me, Re-Tweet Me starting at the Melbourne Comedy Festival later this month.

Borensztajn says she was hooked on the "buzz, thrill and rush" whenever friends and fans liked and re-tweeted her posts, but eventually the virtual ping of approval became more important than her face-to-face interactions.

She went cold turkey for three days in a bid to better understand her condition, realising that a like is only fleeting. Now she aims for one social-media free day a week.

"When social media was taking off in 2004, the idea was that it connects people, but in the last 10 years that core philosophy and meaning has transformed into a way to showcase your best side to the world. It's become more narcissistic, more ego driven," Borensztajn, who also speaks to corporate and school audiences about her experiences, said.

"I [have] so many of these psychological conditions I never had 10 years ago."

People's growing pre-occupation with social media is a cause for concern, according to University of Michigan professor Elliot Panek, but he is reluctant to label it an addiction.

"It's more likely a relatively benign form of self-regulation failure," Professor Panek said, "like eating more potato chips than one had intended".

There is, however, a correlation between social media and narcissism, he said. Evidence suggests self-centred individuals spend more time using these platforms and tend to post more than other individuals.

In a University of Michigan report published last year, Panek found Facebook status updates and Twitter posts increased as narcissistic behaviours, such as grandiose exhibitionism, entitlement and exploitativeness, rose.

The study deduced that Facebook was a technology-enhanced mirror reflecting a preoccupation with one's own image, others' reaction to it, and a desire to update it as frequently as possible.

It also found Twitter was used by college kids as a technology-augmented megaphone, amplifying one's own perceived superiority to others.

Professor Panek is sceptical of the idea that apps like these are making us more self-centred.

"It's more likely that social media makes narcissists' attempts at self-aggrandisement highly visible, making it seem as though we as a culture are become more self-obsessed," he said.

Professor Panek said users, especially those concerned with "online impression management", can become mindful media users and reflect on their habits by using software programs limiting the amount of time spent on specific websites.

For Borensztajn, comedy has become a form of social media therapy, and vice-versa.

"If I can talk about my tech and social media obsession on stage, and use laughter to connect with audience members, it's therapeutic. Tech-life balance is something I'm still trying to achieve."