You’re sat on your sofa, shaking and covered in sweat. Clenching your fists together, you try to summon the energy to think about anything else; anything other than that. A minute into your new-found will power, you cave in and rush to the kitchen table to get your hourly fix. As you breathe a sigh of release you know your worst fear has become true; you are an addict. Don’t worry we’re not talking crack cocaine here but social media and the internet. It may sound dramatic to be comparing the likes of Facebook and Twitter to an illegal substance, however studies have illustrated how dependant on this new age craze people have become. The figures reveal that 75% of Internet users under the age of 25 have a profile on a social networking site (Lenhart, 2009), with one third of these people checking their profile daily and 50% of teenagers doing the same. Considering this study took place back in 2009, I would bet my life that these numbers have increased dramatically over the four year period.
Do certain types of people use the internet and its social networking profiles more than others? Psychology studies have argued there to be a link between personality type and internet usage, with one study finding that extraverted individuals had many connections with others via social networking sites and in the “real-world” and also tended to have higher self-esteem (Zywica & Danowski, 2008). So does Facebook and Twitter aid a person in feeling included? It would seem so, as those not using social networking sites reported feeling less frequently satisfied with their lives. Other factors, such as neuroticism (the tendency to be in a long-term negatively emotional state), have been linked to an increase in certain types of social media usage. People high in neuroticism had greater instant messaging usage than face-to-face interaction (Ehrenberg et al., 2008), which was argued to be down to these individuals needing additional time to contemplate responses; making it easier for neurotic people to communicate with others. So far the studies provide research that could be argued illustrates how social networking sites are beneficial to peoples’ lives, with sites such as Facebook and Twitter helping people bond and reducing anxiety levels for those people who find it more difficult to respond in real-life social interactions.
However, following the Spice Girls’ mantra of “too much of something is bad enough”, there must be a limit to these benefits. How many times have you endured an episode of Jeremy Kyle and heard “I cheated on her because she ‘liked’ this guy’s profile picture on Facebook?” or “I decided to have sex with her because she ‘poked’ me on Facebook”? Too many, I would imagine. Think of Facebook and Twitter as a burger and chips; imagine eating a burger and chips three, four or even five times a day. Not only would your arteries be seeping saturated fat but you would have a disgustingly unhealthy diet balance.
If you have been reading this article and the thought has crossed your mind that you may be in the danger zone of becoming a slave to the drug that is social media, then carry on reading because I have compiled a list to help you identify if you, or your loved ones, need to be weaned off social networking sites quicker than Sir Alex Ferguson chews through a pack of gum.
1. “Hashtagging” in every interaction possible, including speech. If you have ever said“Sweetheart, what’s for dinner? Hashtag I’m hungry, hashtag get in the kitchen.” not only will you have probably been denied sex for at least a week but you are a definite social media addict. It’s fine to just ask the question; I’m sure your girlfriend is more than aware of your hunger because you have been grumpy for the whole evening, grunting in response to every question she has asked you.
2. Checking Facebook or Twitter has replaced your morning coffee. Instead of waking up and sleepily making your way to the kitchen to top-up your body with a dangerously high amount of caffeine, upon which you spend the morning with the shakes, you spend that half an hour in bed scrolling through your Facebook and Twitter notifications. When you crash your car on the way to work because your sleepy eyes are absent from their morning perks you will regret scrolling through your newsfeed, only to have found out that Sally is now “listed as single” and seven people “like” it, including her jealous ex-boyfriend who has taken to spamming her wall with “I’m keeping Jess and I will take this to court if needs be”. Jess is their fish, by the way.
3. You “check in” on Facebook wherever you go. Unless you are a hermit, or have a really cruel Aunt and Uncle who make you live in the cupboard under the stairs, chances are you will be leaving your house. We all know this because we do the same, so you really don’t need to check in “on the M1, so much traffic!”. I’m not even going to mention “checking in” when you’re in your “ultra comfy bed” either because you know deep down that this is a sure sign that you are a social media addict.
4. You share your whole life on every social networking site possible. We all have busy lives and even I admit that sometimes I do check up on my friends’ Facebooks and Twitters to see what’s going on in their lives. However if these people started posting pictures of what they had for breakfast, as well as writing statuses about how they just“drank a can of coke, raise the roof – woop woop!” , then not only would I remove them as Facebook friends, I would probably remove them from my life as actual friends.
5. You “like” your own posts. You posted it, so we’re aware that you probably do like it!
6. You beg people to follow you on Twitter. Not only is this embarrassing but it illustrates that people do not want to follow you. If you phone them and text them, demanding that they follow you and then they do, this surely can’t make you feel good. It’s the same as going into your work place and kneeling at the foot of somebody’s desk, pleading with them to let you sit with them at lunch and share their sandwich. If somebody did that to you, would you let them? I didn’t think so.
If you fall into one of these categories, then you are on your way to becoming a social media addict. If you fall into more than one, then you definitely need to re-evaluate your spare time. Take up a hobby; running, painting, reading, anything other than checking your Facebook and Twitter every two minutes! Unless there is a sudden zombie apocalypse, chances are that these people you are connecting with are not going disappear over night or forget who you are. So breathe, take a step back and restore a healthy balance to your life before it’s too late.
By: Laura Hindley – @LauraHindley2