IS SOCIAL MEDIA REALLY AN ADDICTION?

Social media refers to interaction among people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. Social media depend on mobile and web-based technologies to create interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content. They introduce substantial changes to communication between organizations, communities, and individuals. Social media differ from traditional/industrial media in many ways, including quality, reach, frequency, usability, immediacy, and permanence.

The dictionary defines addiction as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, such as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” Although social media addiction isn’t really an addiction after all, it is still related to a compulsion to consume something or engage in a set of behaviors to the point that it significantly interferes with a person’s life.

According to a survey I did on social media addiction, I’ve received a total of 57 response; 40 from females and 17 from males. All participants fell under the same age group which can be label as young adults, the range was from 20-25 years old. When ask how often do you check your social media accounts, 77% of participants said they check/ update their accounts almost all hours of the day. Although the other 23% of participants check their account a little less often, they can’t get through the day without checking it a few times. 

The top 3 social medias that people currently are engaging in are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 100% of the participants have a Facebook account, 83% of those same people have Instagram, and 77% of them have a Twitter. What I found interesting from this survey was 100% of participants rely on social media to connect with friends and family, and to stay up to date with the latest news, trends, and gossip but 81% of those participants believe they can live without social media.

In a Huffington Post article titled “Are We Addicted to Facebook, or Are We Just Addicted to Ourselves” Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell at Harvard performed a simple study: They put people in their fMRI scanner and gave them a choice to (1) report their own opinions and attitudes, (2) judge the attitudes of another person, or (3) answer a trivia question, while they measured the participants’ brain activity. The catch was that each choice was associated with a monetary payoff, which allowed the scientists to test if individuals were basically willing to give up money to self-disclose. And they were. On average, participants lost an average of 17 percent of potential earnings to think and talk about themselves! 

And this research can be apply to all other social medias. Why do people get jealous when someone else has more “likes” than them? Or when a celebrate have hundreds of thousands of followers and likes? Better yet, when a regular person (or a friend) has more likes and friends than you? It’s  likely that it is not the social media itself that people are addicted to. It is all of the self-promoting features that it offers: posting what you are thinking, posting pictures of yourself, giving your opinion on what others post via “likes,” etc. It is also about being more popular than the next person, and feeling like everybody likes you and is praising you. And throw in a little intermittent reinforcement; not knowing when the next time someone will like or comment on your post and all of these social medias have a winning formula. Or at least one that gets us hooked.

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