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What Is Social Networking Addiction?

Social networking addiction is a phrase sometimes used to refer to someone spending too much time using Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media — so much so that it interferes with other aspects of daily life.

There’s no official medical recognition of social networking addiction as a disease or disorder. Still, the cluster of behaviours associated with heavy or excessive use of social media has become the subject of much discussion and research

Defining Social Networking Addiction –
Addiction usually refers to compulsive behaviour that leads to negative effects. In most addictions, people feel compelled to do certain activities so often that they become a harmful habit, which then interferes with other important activities such as work or school.

Computer Game Addiction –
In that context, a social networking addict could be considered someone with a compulsion to use social media to excess–constantly checking Facebook status updates or “stalking” people’s profiles on Facebook, for example, for hours on end.

But it’s hard to tell when fondness for an activity becomes a dependency and crosses the line into a damaging habit or addiction. Does spending three hours a day on Twitter reading random tweets from strangers mean you’re addicted to Twitter? How about five hours? You could argue you were just reading headline news or needed to stay current in your field for work, right?

Researchers at Chicago University concluded that social media addiction can be stronger than addiction to cigarettes and booze following an experiment in which they recorded the cravings of several hundred people for several weeks. Media cravings ranked ahead of cravings for cigarettes and alcohol.

And at Harvard University, researchers actually hooked people up to functional MRI machines to scan their brains and see what happens when they talk about themselves, which is a key part of what people do in social media. They found that self-disclosure communication stimulates the brain’s pleasure centres much like sex and food do.

Social Networking for ADULTS Everybody has the right to Sin
Plenty of clinicians have observed symptoms of anxiety, depression and some psychological disorders in people who spend to much time on-line, but little hard evidence has been found proving that social media or Internet use caused the symptoms. There’s a similar lack of data about social networking addiction.

Married to Social Media?
Sociologists and psychologists, meantime, have been exploring the impact of social networking on real-world relationships, especially marriage, and some have questioned whether excessive use of social media could play a role in divorce.

Sherry Turkle, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has written extensively about the impact of social media on relationships, theorizing that they actually weaken human ties. In her book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, she chronicles some of the negative impacts of constantly being connected by technology, which paradoxically can leave people feeling more alone.

Still other researchers have concluded that social networking can make people feel better about themselves and more connected to society.

Internet Addiction Disorder
Some people consider excessive use of social networks simply the latest form of “Internet Addiction Disorder,” a phenomenon people first began writing about in the 1990s when Internet use was starting to spread. Even back then, people theorized that heavy use of the Internet might impair people’s performance at work, in school and in family relationships.

Nearly 20 years later, there is still no agreement that excessive use of the Internet or social networking services is pathological or should be considered a medical disorder. Professor Allen says he agrees that some people use social media sites too much, but the challenge is deciding where to draw the line.

He says people who have grown up with the internet consider it part of their daily lives, and their idea of how much internet use is okay, may be somewhat different to older generations.

He believes instead of needing medical or psychological intervention, individuals who have an obsessive urge to use social media should simply assess their own behaviour.

“Everyone who uses social media needs from time to time to stop and think ‘Am I getting something out of this and what am I productively contributing to the rich computer mediated lives that we now lead?'”

“If people perhaps once a month or once a week were to stop and lean back from the keyboard and ask themselves ‘what am I getting out of this, what else can I do?’

“Then they may well find a solution to a problem that may be lurking there but I don’t think it is particularly significant yet.”

If you’re wondering, though, whether you might be spending too much on-line, try taking the Internet addiction test.

Joe Busuttil
Equator Hypnotherapy Melbourne 0412 277 488

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