Unplugging Day 7: The End is Near!
I apologize for posting this latest blog late but this was unavoidable as I had classes/work all day yesterday and research that needed to be carried out for this particular blog piece. So that said, please enjoy day 7.
I’ve almost made it through in one piece!
All week I have struggled to stay off Facebook and Twitter. Some days were better then others. Some days I can rationally look at my participation in social media and think about the time I spend on social media and ask questions about it. But other days are not like this, other days all I want to do is get on Facebook and see what others are doing, and upload all my pics of my pets. This morning was on of those mornings, I got into the car and there was frost on the windshield. The first thing I thought was “man I wish I could update my Facebook status and complain about the damn frost”. The second thing I thought was that I wanted to get all the pictures off my iPhone but uploading them to Facebook. Why? No one is going to care about the frost on my windshield, and everyone has seen countless pictures of my animals!
These struggles I have had all week have lead me to the question: what is addiction? Often we think of addiction in terms of drugs or alcohol abuse, but addiction can also be behavioral. I feel as though I must explain what I mean by ‘we’ as I’ve been using it all week. I don’t mean “we” as in you specifically, or that I am speaking for everyone and lumping us all together. When I say ‘we’ I mean the western, developed, world.
So what does it mean to be addicted to social media? What is addiction? According to New Brunswick Canadian Health an addiction is when you use a substance, or engage in a behaivour that is repetitive and damaging. Wikipedia says that an addiction is something where pleasure or enjoyment are originally the intention, but over time the use of the substance or activity is needed to feel normal. Bloggers have also tried to answer the question: when are you addicted? Such as this blogger here that attempts to come up with signs of being addicted. Some of my favourite signs include: Tweeting on the toilet, if you had to choose between not eating and not tweeting you’d pick not eating, if you have more then one twitter or Facebook application on your phone, and at least 80% of your family and real friends have ‘unfriended'(deleted) you from Facebook.
It could also be defined as a “recurring compulsion” by someone to engage in some specific behaviour that harms their: health, mental state, or social life.
I like the last definition, I would tend to argue it is probably the best definition for social media addiction, as I can relate to the overwhelming compulsion to log in. But then I must ask “what is social life?” Is social life in person to person interaction only? Or can this be defined more broadly to include our cyber lives as well? Some people I know would argue most definitely, that some of their best friends they met online using Twitter, Facebook, Google +, chat sites, or other forms of social media.
What behaviours are then considered “behaivoural addictions” and who decides this? Some would ask is a social media even a true addiction? Does it have validity? Is it defined through public opinion? Do experts, such as psychologists or doctors with fancy degrees, tell us what is considered an addiction or what we need to watch for in our children to determine if they fit into some said category of addiction? What dictates our use of social media, and how does it fit into our everyday life? Does society dictate the appropriate use of technology, specifically social media, or does technology (in this case social media) dictate the way we behave while out with friends, or in the class room.
Do we (people who engage in social media) expect the same instant gratification out of our ‘real’ day to day activities that we get from social media sites, like Twitter? Do we allow our social worlds to collide with our day to day life so that it just seems natural for us to pick up our phone during a meal and start texting, emailing, or checking messages on Facebook?
One study from 2010 asked social media users when and how they used social media. Some of the more interesting findings included: iPhone users used social media more (perhaps because of accessibility via applications), almost 50% of respondents said they would wake up in the middle of the night and check social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and 56% said that they need to check social media at least once a day.
Perhaps the most interesting responses the study got was when people were asked when they are OK receiving and responding to messages. People responded with all kinds of answers most notable was: during sex, and during a meal.
While this may not be the most reliable study ever done it does give us an insight into what people think is an appropriate use of social media, and it gives us an idea about the recurring compulsion to get on to social media sites.
I don’t know how to answer these questions, and the many others I have, but perhaps I will find answers over the next few days as I write a few pieces on my entire week. What I do think is that social media addiction is, at least for me, a recurring compulsion that has been known to hurt aspects of my life. Or at least get in the way of parts of my life, such as dinner with my husband, and evidently my school work.
I definitively think that some aspects of social media can be, and arguably are, addictive. Maybe even better questions to ask would be: what is it about social media that draws us all in? And what regulates our (as in the developed world) behaviours with this technology?
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