Social media…an addiction or not???
So here I am, two and a half weeks into my social media sabbatical and I find myself questioning whether or not my various forms of social media participation are an addiction or not. The thought crossed my mind this morning when I woke up and had the extreme desire to check and scroll, check and scroll.
So I’ve decided to spend this early morning minutes doing some informal research and writing about that matter. Webster’s Dictionary seems to imply that addiction is mainly attributed to chemical substances in its wording: “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (such as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal”. But I’m also fully aware that addiction can also be based on behaviors not related to chemical substances.
I decided to find out what Webster’s had to say on the word “addict”: “to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively.” This seems to lend itself more to my thinking that social media could indeed an addiction. Many mornings, without really thinking in advance, I habitually turn on to social media,,, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and the like. It’s definitely a habit, since I would do it most every day. I was devoted to make two daily posts, as is evidenced by the fact I’ve been doing that for over four years now. The surrender part of the definition seems to be a little strongly worded, but I certainly didn’t put up any sort of fight.
I consulted Physchology Today and an article they posted in May of last year. It contained several interesting opinions and thoughts:
“Although there were few studies at the time, we did find that for a small minority of individuals there was a significant detrimental effect on many aspects of their life, including their real life relationships and academic achievement among those still in education. We argued that such signs are indicative of addiction.”
The good news is that very few people are genuinely addicted to social media. However, many people’s social media use is habitual and it can start to spill over into other areas of their lives and be problematic and dangerous, such as checking social media while driving. Other behaviors may be annoying rather than dangerous, but may be indicative of problematic social media use, such as checking social media while eating out with friends or constantly checking your smartphone while watching a movie at the cinema. Others may snub social contact with their loved ones or friends and prefer to check out social media on their smartphone instead (so-called ‘phubbing’).
The article does contain an interesting list of probing questions:
“Do you spend a lot of time thinking about social media or planning to use social media?
Do you feel urges to use social media more and more?
Do you use social media to forget about personal problems?
Do you often try to reduce your use of social media without success?
Do you become restless or troubled if you are unable to use social media?
Do you use social media so much that it has had a negative impact on your job or studies?”
If the answer to all six of these questions is “yes,” then you may have or be developing an addiction to using social media. We say “may” because the only way this can be confirmed is through a diagnosis from a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist.
Using this list of questions, which is similar to one that would be used for a chemical addiction, I would say it’s possible that 1) use of social media is an addiction and 2) I’m a social media addict.
I’m glad to say I have been successful in forgoing my use of social media for the past two and a half weeks. I think about what it would be like to still be using them, but have’t found it necessary to break my hiatus. As time moves forward, I have found myself less and less irritated by the fact it’s not accessible and have been able to use the hours and minutes in a productive way.
The real question is whether or not my use of social media has a negative effect on my life. For a single guy who spends much of his time on his own, I feel social media does give me a feeling of connection to others. It helps me keep up with what’s going on in my community and gives me ideas on what to do with my spare time. I guess the real question is, do I spend time on social media when there are other things I should be doing with my time?
I’ll do some more thinking on this topic and perhaps do a future blog on my thoughts…but my personal opinion is that social media can indeed be an addiction and its user termed as addicts. If you disagree, I would suggest you take a hiatus from it, as I have, and see how many times you’re tempted to log on. I think you’ll find it’s more times that you would imagine.