Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat; these aren’t just fun tools to keep up with friends. Our generation uses them as sources of fashion inspiration, news and political discourse. But can too much of a good thing be so bad that it becomes an addiction?
A CLOSER LOOK
Experts are undecided about internet addiction as a real disorder, but there is enough evidence to make a compelling case. A review study done by Nottingham Trent University, which looked at previous research on the psychology of social media, found indications of what they termed ‘Facebook Addiction Disorder’. The authors concluded that addiction criteria such as ‘neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood-modifying experiences, tolerance and concealing the addictive behaviour’ appeared to be present in some people who make excessive use of social networks.
THE WARNING SIGNS
Addiction compels people to
do certain things so often that it becomes a harmful habit. Social media addiction has the same effect, with people spending so much time on social networks that they neglect their daily life. Behaviours include repetitively checking Facebook status updates, obsessively tracking likes on posts, and stalking people’s online profiles. Social media addiction can be stronger than addiction to alcohol and cigarettes, according to Chicago University researchers. After recording the cravings of 205 adults for several days, they found that resistance to media cravings ranked weaker than that for cigarettes and booze.
MIND THE BAIT
Social media notifications have a significant role in maintaining addiction. ‘They play the same psychological trick on you that clickbait headlines do – they tell you that there’s information you really want to know, but they don’t tell you enough to satisfy,’ Mike says. ‘Seeing a red “3” on the Facebook notifications bar is like a clickbait headline: “You won’t believe what three people have said about you.” You’ve got to click or tap. It’s compulsive.’
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