Tech Watch: Addicted to Social Media

Category:  Tech Watch
Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 at 6:30 AM
Tech Watch: Addicted to Social Media by Michael Haas

Are you constantly checking your Facebook newsfeed? Is your mobile device glued to your hands? Are you regularly updating your Tweets?

Don't worry, Erie Reader Readers: you’re not alone; an estimated 350 million people are guilty of this addiction. Even our very own Michael Haas has been struggling with this addiction for the last two weeks after a malfunctioning smart phone.

Most people joke about their addiction to Facebook, but a recent study shows that there may be more truth to it than we initially thought. These studies reveal that social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, are potentially more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol. 

The journal Psychological Studies published a survey of 250 people, revealing that sleep and sex were the two things they desired most during the day. It also showed that their need to check Facebook was too difficult for the majority of them to overcome. Regardless of their reputation for being addictive, alcohol and cigarettes produced lower levels of desire than the urge to check social networks. 

Wilhelm Hofmann, the leader of the team that conducted the study, said, "Modern life is a welter of assorted desires marked by frequent conflict and resistance, the latter with uneven success." Hofmann proposes that people may have a difficult time when it comes to resisting social media since there is no obvious or immediate downside to checking out Twitter or Facebook. The line between overuse and addiction of the Internet is not always well-defined. One negative aspect that Hofmann warns about is the loss of time that users of these services encounter. Oftentimes people become distracted by browsing social media and do not realize that an hour of their time passed by.  

“Desires for media may be comparatively harder to resist because of their high availability and also because it feels like it does not ‘cost much’ to engage in these activities, even though one wants to resist,” Hofmann said. ”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.”

The first Internet addiction rehab clinic in the United States of America, reStart, recently opened in Washington.  With a staff of professionally trained clinicians they are able to help individuals, couples, and families understand their addictions to gaming, Internet, and technology through their Addiction Recovery Program. Their staff understands technology-related process addictions and the impact problematic use has on life. 

The mission of reStart states that they are: "specifically oriented towards launching tech dependent youth and adults back into the real world. Our individually tailored program is designed to assist participants with an Internet and/or computer based behavioral addiction to break the cycle of dependency."

While the Internet is a great tool for education and communication, it is very important to find a healthy balance of being connected to the Internet and engaging in your real life with family and friends. In order to discover that balance, it is necessary to become mindful of your online and mobile phone habits, such as those with any other kind of addictive behavior, like cigarettes or alcohol continue to do.

As much as we love our social media and the ever-evolving Internet, it is essential to unplug and disconnect with your virtual world for the sake of connecting to the real world. Spring is about to bloom and as Erie begins its thaw, consider activities that you want to engage in with your peers. You can use the Internet to connect and make plans, but be sure to follow through with your plans. Take the time to get fresh air; after all, you have probably been hibernating all winter. Become mindful this spring and summer, try to disconnect, but remember to check in once in a while (at least to read Tech Watch in the pages of Erie Reader)!

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