Addiction To Social Media

(some negatives of social media cont.)

Addiction to social media, ie online addiction to porn, gambling, gaming, shopping, video streaming, etc. An example of this is a young person with self-esteem issues who is obsessed with body image will frequently use social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat where images of one's ideal self can be posted, with flaws cropped or filtered out. This can lead to using steroids and being addicted to the gym as they become neurotic and hyper-anxious about their body image. Research is linking social media with higher rates of eating and distorted body image disorders. The Internet is playing a role in mental health disorders, ie

"...the Internet is the latest vector for addiction in the same way mosquito is a vector for malaria..."

Alistair Mordey as quoted by Anne Hyland 2017

Some of the names given to this addiction include Internet addiction disorder, problematic Internet use, pathological Internet use or compulsive Internet use. It is regarded as similar to chemical addiction.

Some questions need to be answered when defining online addiction, ie

- Does Internet addiction lead to mental health problems or do mental health problems lead people to using the Internet in problematic ways?

- Do mental health and Internet addiction mutually influence each other, ie does a person who trawls the Internet online gambling sites have a gambling problem or an Internet addiction?

- Do people become addicted to the platform for the content of the Internet?

"...in broader terms, Internet addiction is a compulsive need to spend excessive amounts of time engaged in online activities, while other important aspects of their life - work, school, friendships and family - are neglected. Internet addiction appears to share similarities with other addictive disorders, such as withdrawal problems, tolerance and negative social repercussions..."

Anne Hyland 2017

"...social media becomes a problem......when a person becomes so dependent on it they give up normal relationships, socialising and hobbies such as sport..."

Beb Teoh as quoted by Anne Hyland 2017

One way to determine online addiction is to take a break from the Internet for a few days. If you experience withdrawal symptoms like irritability, agitation, anger or distress, etc and Internet access dominates your thoughts, then you have the basis for addiction.

Similarly a person may turn to the Internet to cope with negative feelings, like guilt, anxiety or depression, to escape from their loneliness, to procrastinate and neglect work or studies, etc.

In some countries it is estimated that Internet addiction impacts up to 10% of the population. This is expected to increase with more and more time spent online and ever expanding use of social media. For example,

- Snapchat started in 2002 and now has around 10 b. videos watched daily

- YouTube (launched in 2005) the world's busiest television platform

- Tinder (started in 2012) now receives more than 1 billion left and right swipes daily

- every day billions "likes" are clicked on Facebook; yet the like button was introduced in 2009.

The 2016 AIA Healthy Living Index survey reported

"...Australians on average spend four hours in the front of a screen for non-work use, compared with the regional average of three hours......almost 2/3 of adults admit to finding it hard to break the habit of spending so much time online, up from 56% in 2013. Half of those surveyed said social media and online were becoming addictive for them......people respond Pavlovian-like to every notification, buzz and ding. More Australian households now own a smart phone than a TV......the arrival of the smart phone in 2007 changed everything. Suddenly, the Internet is available everywhere..."

Anne Hyland 2017

Also, technology companies are developing more and more powerful algorithms that can manipulate and exploit human psychological vulnerabilities, ie they can influence reward-motivated behavioural parts of the brain to keep people glued to their websites for longer.

"...The company that keeps the eyeball for longer is typically more profitable..."

Anne Hyland 2017

"...when a person experiences a reward - for example winning a race - the level of dopamine, the feel-good chemical in the brain, rises. The person feels pleasure and excitement, an experience a loser doesn't. Many addictive drugs such as cocaine and ice increase dopamine activity. Research suggests that online content from social media, porn, gaming and gambling also activates dopamine levels in our brain..."

Anne Hyland 2017

Anything that increases the dopamine levels can become addictive!!!

Scans of the brain have shown that the areas that light up on social media activity this are the same for heroin addiction.

"...it's tapping into the reward system in the brain and can become addictive. It's why children often get very angry and aggressive when you want to take away their PlayStations..."

Jane Williams as quoted by Anne Hyland 2017

online sites exploit the human desire for social approval and status, ie

"...you get an instant, affirmative reply; your tweet or message in a roundabout way boost your status within the pack or tribe..."

Alistair Mordey has quoted by Anne Hyland 2017

This satisfaction is gained in real time

Surveys in 2016 like Sensis Social Media report, State of the Nation (Australian Psychological Society), etc are showing the following trends

- a 3-fold increase from 2015 in the amount of time spent each week on Facebook, eg 12.5 hours

- social media is both a cause and a way of handling stress, eg around 50% visit social media as a form of stress release (up from 1/3 in 2011)

"...Using social media can have positive benefits irrespective of whether we are in reality or virtual reality......social media and the Internet are an accepted part of modern life and communications, and enable us to maintain established networks, particularly with friends interstate or overseas, organising to meet friends after work. Social media can even increase a person's confidence in relating to others without the usual added social pressures. It has also created awareness about charitable causes, even protest around the globe..."

Alistair Mordey has quoted by Anne Hyland 2017

Strategies for dealing with Internet addiction include cognitive behavioural therapy, abstinence, yoga, meditation, encouraging socialisation, sporting activities and hobbies, etc.

 

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