Social Media: A Transparent Addiction

Since the early 2000’s, social media has become one of the most important technological aspects that affects our daily lives. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and even text messaging, are used by billions of people around the world. The amount we use social media gets to the point were we text each other when we are in the same room, or check Facebook every 5 minutes without thinking. A red flag is raised when thinking about how many people frequently use social media sites and other forms of communication. It may be getting to the point where it can be dangerous because it is incorporated in most things we do. To what extent do these websites and modes of technological communication affect our everyday lives? there are positives and negatives that follow with the extreme usage of social media, which will be broken down.

What started the age of social media was the introduction of MySpace in 2003. This was one of the biggest introductions of a social media website, which played along side LinkedIn. Rather than being a website for teenagers, LinkedIn is a networking website for businesspeople who want to connect with other professionals. Today, LinkedIn boasts more than 175 million members. Still, these numbers do not even come close to how many users Facebook and Twitter have. Twitter has around 300 million users, with the addition of 460,000 different accounts created per day. The numbers provided by Twitter still do not match what Facebook produces. On average, Facebook has around 620 million daily users. This is just the accounts that are active every day, which is incredibly staggering and shows how many people actually use Facebook and how often. The monthly active account total is noted to be greater than 1 billion, as of December 2012. As these numbers are extremely high, what is frequently asked is if social media has an addictive quality to it.

Facebook Addiction

A study was conducted using cell phones to test the addictive nature of 205 people between 18 and 85 years old. The participants were asked seven times a day over the period of a week to talk about certain desires they were experiencing at each time period and the strength of them. In the results, checking on social media, email, and work, all ranked third on the list behind sleep and leisure time. Checking on social media did rank above having a cigarette or a drink of alcohol. Though this is not specific evidence that says social media is more addictive than smoking or drinking, it does say it has some sort of addictive quality, whether we are conscious about it or not. Though, one of the researchers stated:

With cigarettes and alcohol there are more costs – long-term as well as monetary – and the opportunity may not always be the right one. So, even though giving in to media desires is certainly less consequential, the frequent use may still ‘steal’ a lot of people’s time.

When we think of addiction, there is a negative stigma that instantly surrounds the word in our minds. As noted from the results in the study, though drinking and smoking have extremely worse effects on the human body than social media, text messaging and using social media websites are more of a time commitment and distracts the user from productive tasks. Social media is still considered to dangerous. It can threaten our relationships with friends and family as well as our overall well-being and mood.

This ‘addiction’ goes more in depth as researches say there is a dopamine jolt behind social media. Kristen Lindquist, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, says:

Social information feels intrinsically rewarding to people. We get a jolt of dopamine when someone “likes” our Facebook post or retweets our Twitter link. Over time, the effect on the reward centre in the brain is similar to what makes drug addicts go back for another line of cocaine.

Treating this ‘addiction’ is considered more tricky than treating alcohol or drugs because the internet and social media is an important part of our daily life, that it cannot be avoided. One of the simplest answers to this is to use the internet and social media in moderation. Since this is not an addiction that can directly harm the physical lives of people such as drinking or cigarettes, it is something that is hard to detect as well as address. There are SIX ways to tell if you are addiction to social media. They are:

  1. Looking at Facebook or Twitter more than 10 times a day or for more than half an hour (unless it’s your job)
  2. Checking social media on a smartphone when you’re driving
  3. “Cyber-stalking” friends to see you haven’t been left out
  4. Feeling down if no one comments, ‘likes’ or retweets what you post
  5. Getting upset, angry or bewildered if Twitter or Facebook isn’t working
  6. Ending a foreign trip with a sizeable bill for data roaming. When you’re away, why not take a holiday from social media?

Somewhere down the line of using social media, one of the six ways to tell if someone is addicted to social media has popped up in my life. As previously stated dealing with these issues is very difficult because it is different than other notable addictions. Social media addiction has not been noted in a public scenario yet, so there are no real treatment centres to deal with the issue; it is more dependent on the user to make the change. Keeping a computer in a more common area, rather than in your personal room or carrying it around with you, can help deter the amount of time you are on it. Though this sounds like a good idea, most people have smartphones, which is a substitute for a computer. Having specific times for social media is another way to combat this. Completely cutting out social media is something extremely difficult, especially with the current generation being built around technology and the Internet.

Along with the previous ideas to phase out the extreme usage, tips to ‘rehabilitate’ the addiction are also provided to help the addicted user. The tips are as follows:

  • Track Your Time Online
  • Go Outside
  • Limit Your Memberships and Apps
  • Use Your Networks Productively
  • Prioritize
  • Stop Procrastinating
  • Remove the Cellphone Apps
  • Spend More Time With Close Friends and Family

As we know Facebook and Twitter dominate the social media universe, what is the future of social media? Will it change in its ‘addictive’ properties? The answer unfortunately, is most likely no. These companies do not care if you have an addiction problem, that is how they make their money. New websites and social media products are striving for the mobile-phone audiences. Billions of people use mobile-phones which is a very big demographic in which they would tackle. Mobile phones are attached to our hips in our generation, which helps the ‘addiction’. Social Media is a silent killer when it comes to addiction because we do not perceive what everyone uses every day as an addiction. It is noted that desires for media are harder to resist because of our ‘high availability‘. This, with the addition of no monetary value to participate in these social media websites, and you have a perfect concoction. When it comes to cigarettes and alcohol, it can be avoided because there are times and places were it is inappropriate and illegal to do. These addictions can also cost one a lot of money trying to purchase. Social media in turn, is less consequential. This is why it is not viewed as a addiction by most.

Ultimately, there is a absolute option you can choose to deal with the social media addiction. Digital Suicide is defined as ” the attempt to go off the grid, to grab control of your persona, time or sanity. This is talking about deleting you accounts on the social media websites. But this still, is not as easy as it sounds. A professor of psychology at California State University states

Some know they’re too wrapped up in it, but if they give it up, even for an hour, they’re afraid they’ll miss out on something.

The following video is an interview that provides information on social media addiction. The interview talks about how easy it is to get addicted and how most people are addicted and don’t even know it. Many university students I know need to have a ‘Facebook’ break every 30 minutes of studying. But when asked, they will deny that they are addicted to the social media websites. This blatantly shows that anyone can be addicted without knowing, thus making it transparent.

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