Since the rise of personal computers and smartphones, the amount of time people spend on social media has become a popular topic of conversation and often criticism. As a society, we’re on our phones during all times of the day- whether it’s waiting in line for a cup of coffee, hanging out with friends, or before falling asleep, it’s clear that smartphones play a large role in our daily routines and how we interact with others. But when does social media usage cross the line between staying connected and up to date on current events to becoming obsessed? Many of my friends joke that they’re addicted to using their phones and constantly checking social media- but there’s surprisingly recent research suggesting that social media can cause behaviors similar to those with an addiction.
A recent study examined the relationship between Internet use and gratification. Seven different factors were taken into consideration when examining the reasons for why individuals use the Internet. Factors ranged from more practical uses like gaining information to more socially charged reasons, such as access to a virtual community and improving personal status. It was discovered that these factors, which often result in different types of gratification, could cause addiction-like tendencies depending on the factor, although normally mild among the majority of the population (Song, Larose, Eastin, Lin, 2004). However, this study provides interesting supporting evidence that could possibly help alter the way we view our time spent on the Internet.
However, just because social media can cause behavior that is similar to those of people with an addiction, it’s crucial to not belittle the seriousness of drug addiction or alcoholism. While most of us are online an excessive amount of time, and sometimes do so without realizing- most people can still function successfully in their day to day lives. Social media use rarely results in many of the life-ruining consequences that drug or alcohol dependency creates.
Nevertheless, the sneaky habit-forming behaviors of social media can result in serious consequences. For example, feeling the need to constantly stay connected can cause fatal car crashes when texting and driving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that an average of 8 people a day are involved in fatal car accidents that result from distracted driving. Many of these cases involve the use of a cell phone.
Another study examined the result of social media on mental health. While the majority of social media’s impact is still under question, it has been suggested that improper use of social media can result in depression-like symptoms. This doesn’t mean that someone who uses Facebook to stay in touch with friends will feel depressed, but rather if someone uses Facebook to secretly check up on ex-friends and partners, rather than engaging through comments, likes, and sharing they may experience a depressive-like mood (Chappellet-Lanier, 2015).
While the term addiction has recently been used to describe social media and technology usage, it’s important to remember that the term should be used loosely. While frequently using social media can occur often without consequences it doesn’t hurt to be more mindful about the way we use technology.
Chappellet-Lanier, T. (2015, February 4). Does Facebook cause depression? Depends on how you use it. Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015/02/04/383775091/does-facebook-cause-depression-depends-on-how-you-use-it
Distracted Driving. (2016, March 7). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/
Indeok Song, Robert Larose, Matthew S. Eastin, and Carolyn A. Lin. CyberPsychology & Behavior. September 2004, 7(4): 384-394. doi:10.1089/cpb.2004.7.384.