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?
As day 6 comes to an end and I move into my last 24 hours of being unplugged from social media I realize I am in no real hurry to log back on. I’ve been enjoying this week just reflecting, balancing out my life, reconnecting with real people, and my productivity has gone through the roof. I’ve enjoyed going outside (imagine that), reading books, catching up on my homework (in fact I am now ahead in every subject), and reconnecting with people (including my husband).
The only thing that is a bit scary from this whole week is that it took me a good 5 days to really get over being disconnected from Twitter and Facebook. I am looking forward to getting back online and reconnecting with my online world, but by no means does this mean that I am going to jump back online at 7:30 Thursday morning just because I can.
If you are someone who has been as lost in social media as I have been the last few years, I highly recommend taking a social media break for a few days. Kick back, don’t worry about it, and reflect. You may be surprised at what you find!
Today I decided to sit down and have a conversation with my husband about my use of social media. He also unplugged from Facebook and Twitter this week (though it hasn’t been as hard for him as for me). He told me today that he also didn’t realize how much he was on Facebook, and was outraged with himself for wasting so much time on the site. As a result he has decided he will be limiting his own access after this week to checking such sites only once a day. I don’t know if I can make that same commitment, but I do know that I will be cutting way back on how much I use these tools, and when.
For months he has been telling me that I am too deeply involved in Twitter and Facebook, and at one point he had mentioned to me that sometimes he feels as if he is ‘ having a relationship with the back of a computer screen’. Either because I am always working on my school work, or because I am on Twitter, or Facebook. I do spend a lot of time doing both and often either justified why I was spending so much time doing this stuff, or just ignored him completely and hoped he would forget about it.
We’ve often fought over how much time I spend doing school work, other projects, or being on social media. Obviously I can’t just stop doing my schoolwork, or my other projects but perhaps he may be right about social media. Although I use social media for a variety of different things including: school, networking, and managing various projects I am involved in, this doesn’t mean I should be available 24/7. And that is just the problem isn’t it?
In the age of smart phones you can literally do everything on your cell phone. You can check and receive emails, send text messages, and get push Facebook and Twitter notifications (so you don’t even need to open the application to get them). I have 6 different email addresses that get pushed through to my iPhone. Is this something that is necessary? Will my world, or another person’s world fall apart if I don’t answer their email within 5 minutes? Probably not, but the reality is that most of us who have that iPhone, blackberry, or other smart phone do answer our emails, text messages, or other notifications that come through to our phones fairly quickly. I am not really sure if this is a healthy thing to be doing. Everyone needs time away and it would seem too many people have their cyber worlds colliding with their real world and their are no longer any clear boundaries between the two.
I am just looking at the outrageous amount of ‘apps’ I have on my phone and I can do everything. I have an application that allows me to do all my banking from my phone, I have another that would allow me to post and update this blog (seriously, why do I have that?). I’ve got mobile blackboard, an application that allows me to check in with my classes- OK I admit this one has been useful. I have 4 different applications that allow me to use Twitter, about 10 different games that are really good for draining my battery real fast, and a whole bunch of other useless applications that I will probably never use.
Because we can do all these things and more with our smart phones others expect us to be available within minutes. Have you ever sent an email to your professor and got one back right away and noticed on the bottom it says: sent from my iPhone, blackberry (or other device)? Have you then sent them an email at 10 o’clock at night the day before a big essay is due and then gotten all peeved because they never wrote you back. But you know they have a smart phone and you think to yourself: seriously, WTF? Yeah, I know some of you have done that. For those of you not in school perhaps you had a similar experience with your boss, or even just a friend.
I won’t be giving up social media altogether as I use it for many different purposes but this week I have learned that it is OK to take a break from Social Media. My world won’t crumble in upon itself. And even if some of the people I am working on these projects with are freaking out at me on Twitter and Facebook I am not there to see it, and if it was that important you would think they would have sent an email, or you know picked up the phone. So there is no doubt about it I will reexamine how and when I use social media so that it is no longer excessive and so that it won’t get in the way of the important relationships in my life.
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