Thursday, August 6, 2015

Are You Addicted to Social Media?

Last winter I went to a grandson’s seventeenth birthday party at his house. Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends were there and me. His other grandmother was at her winter home. Most of the adults congregated in the kitchen with the food. They stood around talking about NASCAR and other topics I had little interest in, or about people I didn’t know. So I joined the seven or eight teenagers in the living room. After the TV with a NASCAR race was turned off, the room became silent. Or at least it was silent except for the loud conversation going on in the kitchen, because every one of teenagers was busy texting on their cell phones. The girl next to me and I talked briefly before she went back to texting.

These are not the kids I mentioned above.
It’s a rare visit to a grocery store or any other store when there aren’t people walking about chatting on their phones. And no matter how it’s preached about the danger of  texting and driving, I still see people driving looking down at their laps quite obviously texting. In fact, last spring someone drifted into my lane, and I had to slam on my brakes to miss hitting him. When I went past him, he was looking down quite obviously at his phone.  Someone in front of you dawdling and then speeding up or slowing down? Finally, get around them and there’s almost always one hand holding a phone to their ear.

My youngest daughter sent me an email with a link to Facebook addiction, which didn’t open for me, but it made me think so I Googled “Addiction to Social Media” and came up with quite a lot of sites to visit. One was “How real a risk is social media addiction?” by Eliene Augenbraun with CBS News.

According to a 2012 study posted on the National Institutes of Health website, “Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) ruins lives by causing neurological complications, psychological disturbances, and social problems.”  It’s not yet officially listed as a psychiatric disorder, but Internet Gaming Addiction was added as a disorder in May 2013.

Psychiatrist and neuroscience researcher Sean Luo of Columbia University told CBS News studies have shown that “3.7 to 13 percent of U.S. internet users express some symptoms of inappropriate Internet use.” He estimates at least 1 percent of Internet users worldwide need treatment. Symptoms for Internet addiction is similar to addiction to anything else and falls into two types of behaviors: an ever increasing need to engage with the object of the addiction, and a bad feeling when not getting enough of it. Luo says an Internet user worried their online use is getting out of control should seek professional evaluation.

According to several recent brain imaging studies, severely addicted Internet addicts show structural and functional brain abnormalities similar to those found in people with substance abuse problems. Other studies have shown that Internet addiction frequently coexists with anxiety, depression or an addiction to other things like alcohol or drugs.

I also found an (Infographic) by Shea Bennett (http//
The following interesting data come from Fix ( 

Is Social Media Bad for Your Health?
72% of online adults use social networking sites as of May 2013 (It’s probably more now.)
The average user spends 23 hours a week emailing, texting, and using social media and other forms of online communication. That is nearly 14% of total time in a week. Why this level of commitment? Two-thirds say they’re afraid they’ll miss something, leading to 38% of users aged 13-34 checking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook as soon as they wake up. 67% are afraid they will miss something if they don’t stay glued to their social networks.

Does Social Media Affect Your Mental Health?
The University of Salford conducted a study among 298 participants. 50% said using social networks like Facebook and Twitter makes their lives worse. Their self-esteem suffers when they compare their own accomplishments to those of their online friends. 66% claim it’s difficult to relax or sleep after spending time on social networks. 25% cited work or relationship difficulties due to online confrontations. 50% say they feel “worried or uncomfortable” when they can’t access Facebook or email.

Why is Social Media so Highly Addictive?
A study from Harvard University reveals that during self-disclosure on social media, participants activated the Nucleus Accumbens. This region of the brain is important in the development of addictions – it lights up when someone takes cocaine or other drugs. Self-disclosure activates the part of the brain associated with the sensation of pleasure – the same pleasure we get from eating food, receiving money, having sex.  30%-40% of daily conversations share information about our own experiences vs 80% of what we post on social media is about ourselves.  Brain regions associated with reward are strongly engaged when people talk about themselves, and less engaged when talking about someone else. The activation of pleasure centers is even greater when people are told they have an audience.

How Does Social Media Consume Your Life?
Boost Mobile conducted a survey 500 males and females between the ages of 16-25.  50% admitted to being addicted to social media, 60% of which were female. 68% confessed checking their social media feeds up to a staggering 10 times a day. 31% admitted to reading, writing and feeding their social media addiction while on the toilet. 45% said eating was the most popular time to look at their timelines, 37% admitted to finding social media updates more important than listening in the classroom.  The 15-19 year-olds spend 3 hours a day on social media vs 20-29 year olds who spend 2 full hours interacting socially. (I’m wondering what the percentages are with people who are older.)

Balancing Social Media & A Healthy Lifestyle
30% less time spent on social media per week gives you 7 hours that can be spent on exercise.
(Or doing something else that’s better for your health physical and mental)

Under a site called Personal Development, I found “Why Social Networking is Bad for Your Mental Health.” I won’t write all I learned there, but I did learn social media like Facebook and others can become addictive, because it stimulates the pleasure centers in your brain. Some people have hundreds of Facebook friends, and those friends often post things that they want you to “like”. All of this takes time if you’re going to like everything the multitude of media friends want you to like.

Also, prolonged network activity can cause your attention span to deteriorate, think ADHD, causing you to experience difficulty concentrating on one thing too long. It makes it difficult for people to study or take tests. It also creates a decline in intellectual abilities. On social media you’re mostly viewing photos, comments, short status messages or short videos – nothing intellectual. Addicted media people largely ignore developmental activities such as reading books or studying some informational articles. Social media does not provide the brain with enough food for development. Added to that, constant switching from one task to another on social media can cause stress and fatigue, and one last thing. It causes emotion suppression.

The only media sites I’m on is Facebook, which I don’t go to very often, because when I do, my inbox becomes inundated with everyone who comments on anybody’s Facebook page where I left a message. There are my writing sites like the Guppies (which I have a hard time keeping up with), my local SinC chapter, and my Guppy critique writing group. I don’t text or Twitter or belong to any other group except Writers Who Kill. I even put off making phone calls because I don’t like spending time on the phone unless it’s someone I haven’t heard from in a long time. Still I admit to checking my emails at least once a day, and every day I leave a message on Writers Who Kill – unless I’m offline. So I feel I’m not addicted to social media. I much prefer being active outside,or writing, reading, listening to music, the news, or meeting with people where I can make eye contact and hear their voices.

Do you spend too much time online?
Are you addicted to social media?


Grace Topping said...

Hi, Gloria - Very interesting post. We've actually had young people checking their e-mails or Facebook accounts while guests at our house for dinner. They either have a great need to stay connected online, or they're pretty bored with us as dinner companions. Not a pleasant thought.

KM Rockwood said...

I spend some time online, but I don't consider myself an addict.

Sometimes I wonder about those statistics concerning all types of electronic communication devices. They certainly don't reflect the people I know. One source says over 90% of people have cell phones. Among the people I've asked, it's much closer to 50%, and a number of them say they have a phone for emergencies only. I fall in that category--I have one, but I use it so little I can never remember how to answer it, on the rare occasion it rings. And it's always some stupid sales call.

I have a facebook page, but once again, I'm baffled by it. It seems to show random things, and when I try to navigate on it, I can never be sure what's going to show up. It usually a total surprise, and irrelevant on top of that.

Jim Jackson said...

I go through spurts and sometimes find I’ve spent much too much time on social media sites.
However, if I skip them for several days, which often happens, I do wonder what I have missed.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Grace, I don't entertain a lot, but I do have Christmas dinner at my house and sometimes Easter dinner, also. When I do, it's only two teenagers, who do this, but not at the table, fortunately.

Kathleen, I was late getting a cell phone, and like yours it's only a small Tracfone because my kids bugged me to carry one when I go on my walks in the woods or am driving somewhere. I have accumulated over 1600 minutes I have yet to use because I don't like using it. I prefer using my handheld house phone. Unlike you, almost everyone I know has some sort of cell phone even if it's a little cheap one like mine. In fact, the last hold out I know, one of my sisters, finally bought a little phone like mine. One of my daughters put me on Facebook. It was her idea, and not mine. The other daughter was on, but no longer is and hasn't been for years.

Jim, I do like to check my emails at least once a day, and I get a lot of notices that someone on Facebook wants me to like something, or be my friend, or is having a birthday, etc. If I'm not busy, I'll go to it to like them, etc. but just as often I ignore it because I end up getting sucked in and scrolling down to see what else others have to say.
I'm on it more in the winter when I don't have so much to do outside where I really like to be.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

We recently had a "phone line upgrade." The landline was out for no more than 15 minutes, but the internet died. Because I was in the middle of an on-line class trying to keep up with assignments, I bugged the phone company enough to get a service call at dinner time. The line upgrade fried the modem. Otherwise, it was a pleasant and productive day, though I found myself making a list of small details to google for my WIP, and checking the weather on tv.

When the kids are home, I ban electronics at the dinner table.

Lots of interesting facts, Gloria!

Gloria Alden said...

Margaret, I think my daughter and son-in-law don't allow their teenagers to text at the table, either, but I'm not sure of that. I do know they all eat dinner together. When my internet is out, I get a little upset, too, especially if there are things I need to do like do research for my blog or post my blog.

Shari Randall said...

A couple of years ago in my town, the parents of two young children were killed by a driver who was texting while driving. Whatever the driver had to say could hardly be worth two lives. I wish texting and calling while driving were totally banned and punished by huge fines. But that will never happen because so many are addicted to their phones and those who want to curb the use of technology are always brushed off as luddites.

Kara Cerise said...

In addition to oblivious drivers, I've seen kids walking home from school with their heads down while they text or check social media on their cell phones. It can be dangerous if they're not watching traffic and step into the street.

Interesting information, Gloria!

Barb Goffman said...

I'm addicted. I check email and Facebook so often, I'm sure Facebook considers me a superuser, assuming they have such a designation.

Gloria Alden said...

Shari, I'm sure that happens far more often than we know. Sometimes they're just not found out that's what they were doing.

Kara, I've seen that, too. Even older people crossing the road while looking at their phones texting or talking without paying attention.

Barb, at least you're admitting to it. :-) Probably most people would say "Who me? Not me!"