The term “social media addiction” seems strong for something that is so socially accepted and is now an integral part of everyday social life for most people on this planet. Yet, as with anything we spend time with, moderation seems to be a key component to preventing spending too much time with it and becoming an addictive behavior. But what is it about social media that causes addictive behavior and how can it be subverted?
First, let us start with some statistics so that you can get your bearings on just how much social media permeates our daily social lives:
- The average user spends 23 hours a week emailing, texting, and using social media
- 72% of online adults use social networking sites as of May 2013
- 67% are afraid they will “miss something” if they do not check their networks
- 50% of users say Facebook and Twitter make their lives worse
- 66% of users say its difficult to relax or sleep after viewing social networks
- 25% cite work or relationship difficulties due to online confrontations
- 50% say they feel “worried or uncomfortable” when they cant access their networks
From the statistics above, it is difficult to discount the fact that social media definitely affects people’s lives if it is used in excess. On the surface, for those who use it within reason, social media is a fantastic way to be able to connect with people, view news reports or keep tabs on family members. But even what appears to be casual use can be insidious and end up resulting in spending almost 14% of an entire week browsing social feeds.
Social Media Addiction Disorder
A study by Dr. Susan Moeller at the University of Maryland asked 200 students to abstain from all media for 24 hours. “24 Hours: Unplugged” generated a lot of discussion about social media addiction because the students used literal terms of addiction to describe their experience. While anxiety, a darkened mood, and an inability to function can indicate addiction, they are also understandable emotions when your primary way of connecting to the world and staying on top of things has been removed, especially when that could have grave consequences. For example, if you missed an important work communication sent via social media, your job could be in jeopardy, or at the very least, affected adversely. Social media is a tool that we have come to rely upon to fulfill our responsibilities, not necessarily to escape them.
Social Media Moderation
The reality is, for those of us who grew up without having social media, the concept of having it removed entirely does not seem to be that big of a deal. But put yourself in the shoes of those born during or right after the dot com boom of the late 90’s. Social media is more than just media; it is the center of which many young people’s social lives revolve around.
If we were to remove something basic from our lives such as indoor plumbing or electricity and found it to be difficult, does that mean that we are addicted to it? No, of course not. But if we are unable to adapt over time to changes in living practices it is another issue altogether. If one tries to change or scale back their social media habits and continually fails, they may be developing a very real dependency and even show classic signs of addiction.