Social media addiction

Published: May 10, 2015
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The writer is an actor, an anchor and a model. She is currently the host of ‘Morning with Juggun’ on PTV Home and can be reached via Twitter @JuggunKazim

The writer is an actor, an anchor and a model. She is currently the host of ‘Morning with Juggun’ on PTV Home and can be reached via Twitter @JuggunKazim

When we think of addicts, the picture that normally comes to mind is that of a gaunt man or woman, huddled in a corner, trying desperately to get his/her next fix of heroin.

But addiction isn’t just about substance abuse. If a person engages in an activity (gambling, for instance) to the point where it becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life, then as per Psychology Today, that too counts as addiction.

Now look around you. If you are the parent of a teenager, chances are that your child is too busy communing with his or her smartphone to give you the time of day. If you’re a young adult, chances are that you live a large part of your life in the virtual world. We tend to take such behaviour as normal. But in an increasing number of cases, such behaviour isn’t normal. It has crossed the line over into addiction.

A number of studies have looked at not only internet addiction generally, but addiction to social networking websites, and Facebook in particular. For example, a recent study at the University of Albany found that excessive use of online social networking websites like Facebook can not only be addictive, but that such usage may be associated with problems such as substance abuse.

Similarly, an earlier study at the University of Bergen found that women, extroverts and people unable to sleep until very late at night were particularly in danger of becoming addicted to Facebook. Yet another study by researchers in California found that the compulsive use of social media websites such as Facebook resulted in the same kind of changes in people’s brains as those caused by drug addiction.

As in the case of other types of addiction, there are two types of behaviours found in internet addiction. The first is a constant or increasing desire to interact with the object of the addiction. The second is feeling bad when that interaction isn’t available.

In the case of social media websites, what hooks people is the rush they get from social recognition, the thrill of getting a ‘like’ or a re-tweet. That ‘social high’ causes addictive personalities to check their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter timelines every few minutes. But as soon as they hit one level of social recognition, they want to go one level higher. Suddenly, it’s no longer enough to have five friends laugh at your clever turn of phrase or status on Facebook; it has to be at least 50. And when you hit 50, then it has to be 100. And so it goes.

But what’s wrong with all this, you might ask? At the end of the day, nobody gets hurt if somebody spends too much time on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter.

Unfortunately, people do get hurt — just not visibly. In the obvious sense, a person who is so obsessed with their Facebook status that they have to check it every few minutes is not going to be very productive at work. We all like to think we are masters of multi-tasking. But the truth is that except for a few genetically blessed individuals, the rest of us are terrible at it. And what that means is that every time we leave a Facebook window open on our work computer, we are all but ensuring that very little work will get done, and that too of mediocre quality.

There are other losses as well. Take, for example, the selfie obsession that has taken social media by storm. Unattractive and equally unnecessary, these selfies are taken anywhere and everywhere. The most memorable and shocking would have to be the one taken by a gentleman in the bathroom with his shalwar hanging in the background. Another candidate for the most shocking selfie (at least in my knowledge) is the one I saw of a girl with a huge grin on her face sitting in front of a dead body at a funeral. It’s not just the fact that such behaviour is frightening and highly inappropriate. It’s also the fact that the self-esteem of so many people seems to hang on how many ‘likes’ their selfies get.

I don’t want to suggest that we all go back to an age before computers. Yes, Facebook can be great for catching up with your friends and family. Yes, Twitter can be fun and amusing. The only point is that you have to know what you’re dealing with. Social media is the equivalent of candy for the brain. Yes, it’s good to get a sugar rush once in a while. But if you do nothing but live on chocolate-frosted doughnuts, you’re not going to be too healthy. 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • AjmalNawaz
    May 11, 2015 - 2:31AM

    Impressive definition of addictio! Recommend

  • Dilip
    May 11, 2015 - 3:16AM

    Lovely… timely… and as always, BANG-ON target dear Juggun sahiba. Keep ’em coming!!Recommend

  • Vakil
    May 11, 2015 - 3:24AM

    This is certainly one author (Juggun ma’am) for whose articles I will never worry about having an ‘addiction’ for…!! As always, spot-on analysis and wonderful reading. These kinds of articles are not just ‘candy for the brain’, rather good whole-some FOOD for thought (and action too, if one cares to follow)… just hope most of these ‘addicts’ of social media learn, and more importantly follow up on what this intelligent lady @author has to say here….Recommend

  • Qasim Cheema
    May 11, 2015 - 10:40AM

    very good article. specially the self esteem part. Recommend

  • May 11, 2015 - 11:27AM

    The writer righly pointed out that many persons, especially youngsters spends most of their time on social networking sites which may impinge on their work, study and health as well. A welknow axiom says ”Access of every thing is bad”Recommend

  • Yolo
    May 11, 2015 - 2:07PM

    Well written andvery true: “Social media is the equivalent of candy for the brain. Yes, it’s good to get a sugar rush once in a while. But if you do nothing but live on chocolate-frosted doughnuts, you’re not going to be too healthy. “Recommend

  • Atif
    May 11, 2015 - 2:45PM

    Just as substance abuse has a cause which must be identified and extirpated for a complete recovery, so must we dig into the cause of this obsession with the internet — which by no standard can be defined as normal human behavior. The modern desk worker in a 9 to 5 (if he’s lucky) job is bound to be afflicted with all sorts of psychological and physical disorders. This unnatural life cycle keeps him away from real physical contact of his loved ones. A person sitting in a cubicle often gets frustrated. He feels like he is a horse tied up in a stable. He is in a perpetual state of fear. He feels a presence over-watching his actions. In this state the only relief he finds is facebook and other social media outlets. Yes, it may be an addiction, but it is one forced upon us by this modern way of living. There is no substitute for family and real friends. A million followers online are not better than one physical human being sitting in-front of you to listen to your problems.Recommend

  • Parvez
    May 11, 2015 - 9:38PM

    That was a great read…………when I was young the problem was when was enough, enough, was it after the third or the forth or after the ok, one-for-the-road. It was age and time that taught us ( ok, many of us ), so I suppose it will be age and time that will teach this generation as well.Recommend

  • Tausif
    May 12, 2015 - 2:42PM

    Good write up. The effect which is more alarming specially for youth, is they are losing or by many folds, reducing the circle of their human contact. I’ve seen kids who seem to have this kind of social media addiction, and are not actually that social. Older people, who already have had their extensive socialization in life, and are ‘hardened’ to some degree may be less prone, but for the younger ones its really counter productive. My observation is this is making our younger generation anti-social, affecting their intelligence and less creative & inventive. It is also deteriorating their power of imagination. Remember what Einstein had said: There will be a time when technology will surpass the human and we will have a generation of idiots. Has that time come?Recommend

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