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.
Before I get into my withdrawal for the day I wanted to address something that a couple professors brought up to me today. “Aren’t you cheating by blogging about your experience?” In simple terms I would argue no. Maybe I should have first blogged about the assignment itself. So I’ll go back to the beginning. This is my assignment:
“This assignment option gives you the opportunity to critically examine and reflect upon your relationship to Facebook. For one week (and you must stick to this for one full week), you will unplug from Facebook completely.”
As I stated in my previous entry I didn’t believe that just unplugging from Facebook would be an experience as for me Twitter and Facebook are the same and I use them in the same way. For this to be meaningful I needed to unplug from both. Also, blogging is a completely different type of social media than Facebook, Google connect, or Twitter.
A blog is an online journal where you essentially share your thoughts, opinions, and criticisms, on a public forum. Whereas Facebook, Twitter (and others) are not only about receiving instant information they also keep you in touch with friends in an interactive way. Facebook and Twitter keep me in touch with people, and friends instantly. There is no wait time. I log on and become a sponge soaking up useless information about what colour someone’s babies poop was that day, or about how Jane Doe in Arizona broke the record for largest pizza ever made.
I can go on and chat with friends in real time, send messages, receive messages, update my status to give everyone on my Facebook or Twitter some useless information about something I saw in the hallway, and post endless amounts of pictures of my cat and dog so that my father can look at them on his iPhone and make my mom look at my dog in 6 slightly different poses. In other words Facebook and Twitter are a scary all-consuming addiction.
Speaking of addiction, it’s now been just over 36 hours since I took the plunge and gave up Facebook and Twitter. Even as I sit and write this there is a commercial on TV telling me to “like” the Food Network
on Facebook and Follow them on Twitter. I am being mocked in every way! And in this moment I realize that I am going through some clear withdrawl, as someone may go through when giving up coffee.
Some have told me I am visibly cranky (though that is not the word that they used), and even
jittery, and distracted. Several times I have had to stop myself from hitting the share button on a news article I have read. There have also been several times where I have seen something and I find myself scrolling through my iPhone so I can ‘update’ my Facebook status. Only to remember that: I can’t just post the hilarious thing I saw on the train because I am banned from Facebook, and more importantly I deleted the apps from my phone so I couldn’t go on the sites. Which is an indicator of addiction within itself, that I had to delete the applications on my phone so I could not make the update.
I’ve found in the last 36 hours I go to do this without even thinking about it. For example, I got up this morning and within 2 minutes of being awake I grabbed my cell phone, only to remember I could no longer hop on twitter for the morning news. Instead, I opened my CBC news app on iPhone and impatiently waited for it to load. Why? Why do we do this? I can’t be the only person on the planet that does this.
Once CBC finally loaded I was horrified to see that the headlines were the same as they were when I went to bed last night. This would not have happened on Twitter, or even Facebook. Headlines get posted to Twitter immediately, one could argue that you get the news as it is happening instead of having to wait for someone to write about it. Now I haven’t been on Twitter long, but I have in the past 6 months noticed I will read about a “breaking story” on Twitter and 4 hours later it will get sent to my phone via: QR77 email ‘breaking news’ alert.
I think this shows us just how much we expect instant gratification. I don’t want to hear the news hours later, and Twitter has made it so I don’t have to. I want to hear about it as it is happening. And why? Does it really matter if I learn about some guy being charged for another guys beating 10 minutes after it happens or 8 hours later? Probably not. That said perhaps the instant gratification isn’t all bad. If you can hear about a charge 10 minutes after it happens, you could, can, and do, hear about such things as amber alerts just as fast. Which in my opinion is something that needs to get out to the public instantly. But how do we strike a balance in our lives, is it as easy as everyone thinks it is to just turn off our social media connections?
Last night I attended one of my first classes of the term. We did all the usual things you do in first classes that everyone seems to hate yet we always do. The professor had us introduce ourselves to each other, which is always for the better, but everyone dreads talking in front of the class especially about themselves. We then went over the course outline. Normally this would be nothing special but as we came to the assignments this class became interesting, unique, and more wonderful then I had previously thought it was going to be. Assignment number one: Unplug from a social media source for one week.
I must have read and reread this a number of times. Shocked, horrified, and terrified were all emotions that I had all at once as I read this assignment. I must admit for a split second I contemplated dropping the class (and I’d be willing to bet so did some others). That didn’t last for more then a second and to be fair this professor did offer a second option for assignment one, of which I have no interest in as I spend most of my time doing what assignment one would have us do anyway. No option B was much more interesting: unplug from one social media source for 7 days.
I had thought about taking the loophole in the assignment. Technically it only asks us to cut our ties with one outlet of social media. Originally I thought that I would just cut off Facebook for 7 days. But then I realized that I use both for all the same things, so would I really be learning anything or fully participating in this experiment if I only cut myself off from Facebook? The answer is clearly no. So I made the decision at 7:32 am this morning to cut myself off from both Facebook and Twitter for 7 days. It has now been 2 hours 13 minutes and I currently feel like an alcoholic would probably feel if they were to step into a bar or pub in their first few hours of soberness. I am currently sitting in a university where social media is buzzing around me. I’ve already been asked three times today if I have seen this article or that article that Joe Blow posted on Facebook this morning. And another girl asked me if I was following the Twitter #MRU to keep up with UFest events today. I am seriously already considering establishing SMA (Social Media Anonymous) meetings on campus to help me through the week. First sign of addiction?
I must admit I am a bit nervous about whether or not I can do this. I live on social media. It’s where I do my work, it’s how I become networked with different people and organizations. It’s where I get my news, and often even my inspiration for blog posts and other writing that I do. Over the next 7 days I’ll post a daily entry on my progress. So if it interests you, follow me! Or perhaps you just want to be entertained by my pain over the next week, and that’s OK to. Either way follow my progress and feel free to make comments as the week goes on.
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