True Life: I’m Addicted to Social Media

Intervention of Social Media Addicts: Meeting #1

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Interventionist: “Who’d like to share next? Any takers?

…silence…

Interventionist: “How about you; over there?”

Me: “Um, okay. Hi everyone, My name is Melyssa and I’m a social media addict.”

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Everyone: “Hiiii Melyssa.”

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Haha! Now settle down people. Before we get to the fun stuff, let’s get some of the facts straight:

What is Social Media Addiction?

  • Addictions are about fulfilling something. Some people are drawn to addictive substances or behaviors because of the way they make them feel. By their very nature, humans possess a strong feeling to be connected to others and constantly have a sense of needing to belong somewhere. Social media has offered people a way to accomplish this like never before. You can be connected to the world around you twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year.

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How can you determine a Social Media Addiction?

  • If you check your Facebook page first thing in the morning, does that make you a social media addict? The reality is that an addiction to social media can be marked with many of the same symptoms as an addiction to drugs or alcohol or other behaviors, including:
    • Feelings of anxiety when you don’t have access to your social media outlets.
    • An inability to step away from social media for a set period of time (usually at least 24 hours).
    • Choosing time online over actual face time with immediate friends or family, or letting work slip because you are spending too much time online.

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Okay, enough with the formal sh**t. Let’s get real. There’s a bunch of you reading this and saying, “Melyssa, relax.” Trust me, I know it all sounds a bit dramatic, but that’s because we’ve reached that point people!

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^we’re so obsessed that we still find ways to take pictures of ourselves even if our hands are busy. How about like no, maybe I don’t needed to take a photo of myself right now and post it everywhere?! 

So yes!

We, yes WE, have taken obsession to a whole new level. We went from being obsessed to being addicted; good job guys! Haha, seriously though, I understand there are people with real addictions out there. However, it’s important to take a moment to check in and evaluate our own social media addictions.

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I didn’t always see myself as someone addicted…until my first ever 24-hour social media cleanse. Damn, that was hard as hell. Safe to say, my first try…didn’t go so hot.

I LEGIT COULDN’T DO IT!

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I couldn’t resist texting, posting on Facebook, Snapchatting my day (no matter irrelevant the parts I was sharing were) and especially, going on Instagram. Instagram is my drug of choice, if we’re speaking in addiction metaphors here. There is no way you could keep me off Instagram for more than 30 minutes.

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^Awkward cause he dropped out of the race tonight…


We have gained so much from social media. It’s power is strong and its ability to connect and bring people together is unprecedented. However, like many other things, it all sounds too good be true. Just think about all the downfalls. Who are we anymore without our phones? Can we even survive without social media; we all know I sure as hell can’t.

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Where do we go from here? We live in a world where teens and young adults can’t properly communicate verbally. We bug out when the phone rings. HOLY SH**T, what do we do? Um, answer it. If I ever got a phone call from a boy I liked, I would literally fall off whatever I was sitting on. No joke, maybe I would even faint!

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Do we know how to sit at a dinner table without our iPhones sitting happily next to our silverware. Probably not. Can we have a full meal without checking our phones once? Instagramming our dinner? Snapchatting what we ate and who we’re with? Trust me, I’m not judging. I’m at fault for ALL of these things.

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Sherry Turkle wrote an article entitled, “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.” She’s been studying the psychology of online connectivity for over 30 years and the last 5 years she’s focused on what has happened to face-to-face conversation. Clearly, it’s disintegrating, but Turkle, a professor at MIT can say it far better than I.

Her studies have shown that now, more than ever before, people aren’t hiding the fact that they divide their attention.

“College students tell me they know how to look someone in the eye and type on their phones at the same time, their split attention undetected. They say it’s a skill they mastered in middle school when they wanted to text in class without getting caught. Now they use it when they want to be both with their friends and, as some put it, ‘elsewhere.'”

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In other words, sitting at dinner with one friend isn’t good enough because we want to know what our other friends are doing, where our crush is and if anyone has posted an Instagram from formal yet. Yes, I am that crazy. However, we’ve mastered it and accepted this behavior as the ‘norm.’

“One college junior tried to capture what is wrong about life in his generation. “Our texts are fine,” he said. “It’s what texting does to our conversations when we are together that’s the problem.””

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That kid is right. The dangers of social media are much stronger in a group setting. Realistically, sitting alone in your apartment, is a great time to be a social media addict. You’re alone, not being rude to anyone. That’s social media primetime.

One of the most interesting things Turkle brings up is about our level of conversation. Cellphones, silent or not, are a distraction. Even just being out on the dinner table, they are creating a disconnect between the person or people you are with. Turkle says people keep their conversation on topics that they won’t mind being interrupted. Therefore, people aren’t as invested in each other.

The problem is we have this constant need to be stimulated. We want more than what we get from a face-to-face conversation. We yearn to be in the loop and up to date. Tony Schwartz said it well in a NYT article entitled, “Addicted to Distraction.”

“The brain’s craving for novelty, constant stimulation and immediate gratification creates something called a “compulsion loop.” Like lab rats and drug addicts, we need more and more to get the same effect.”

What’s even crazier is that we knowingly accept that the net and social media are all part of a major interruption system that affects our lives in more ways than one. Our attention span has shrunk drastically and we do like things like, “reading the same paragraph over and over, a half dozen times before concluding that it was hopeless to continue,” (Schwartz) because we simply cannot focus.

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^totally feel ya Paris! 

That’s sad, especially for us college folk. How are we expected to study and pass our classes if we spend ten minutes reading the same sentence over and over until we eventually give up. See how well that explanation goes over with your professors.

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Have you ever thought about the way social media makes you feel?

Like any good drug, do Facebook and Twitter ignite certain emotions within you? Do you look for that; do you need those feelings? Sometimes I think I turn to social media to feel something or maybe I get a certain feeling from social media depending on the day. It’s mostly subconsciously, but it’s something I think is a part of my social media addiction. 

 

As the video above explains, Facebook performed a study which manipulated the newsfeeds of almost 700,000 users to either see more negative or more positive posts. The outcome was that the emotional contagion of Facebook, and other social media networks, is indeed a real thing.

People who see more negativity on their Facebook pages post more negatively, and vice versa for those who read more positive posts.

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^yeah, OMG is right! 

More formally, here’s what the Facebook experiment did…

“This tested whether exposure to emotions led people to change their own posting behaviors, in particular whether ex- posure to emotional content led people to post content that was consistent with the exposure—thereby testing whether exposure to verbal affective expressions leads to similar verbal expressions, a form of emotional contagion.”

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^He must have been part of the study as well. Don’t worry Jason, you’re just experiencing emotional contagion!

Why are you telling us this, Melyssa? You may find yourself asking. I am telling you this because what I have taken away from this study is important.

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Relax Justin, I’m about to explain it. Here’s the thing, as a social media addict, I understand that I am getting something by constantly checking in and updating my social media pages. Sure, I’m receiving information and connecting with people, but I’m also experiencing people’s emotions online.

Part of an addiction, is getting to that feeling you desire. Whether it’s the high you get or the rush of excitement you feel, your addiction takes you somewhere emotionally. From what I have learned from this study, the same goes for social media.

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If I’m not feeling great, I immediately go to Snapchat because I know for sure one of my friends is doing something hilarious or dumb on their story. I’ll keep checking and going through stories until I find the one that gets my out of my funk.

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Once I’m in a full on ‘LOL’, I have what I need and I can move on. However, that feeling isn’t always guaranteed which is why a social media addict can’t be reliant on one form of social media.

What about the fact that this study showed people who read and saw more negative post started to post more negatively? Um, it’s a little nuts. However, it’s all a perfect example of how beholden we are to the the things we see on social media.


How about this for a brain blast:

You may be addicted to social media for the emotions you catch, you may never know what emotion it is, but you do know your addiction to social media circulates around finding ways to feel something.

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^excuse me, but WTF?!?!

Well, now that I have officially blown your mind, and forced you to admit you’re addicted to social media, give me just a little longer to finish up.

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And yes, I preface that because my readers and I are not known for our attention spans. But seriously, I promise my rant is almost officially done!

As I’ve stated many times, I am addicted to social media.

  • I get a certain high from posting something and receive lots of positive feedback on it
  • I couldn’t survive a day without all social media
  • I feel a constant need to be connected to people
  • If I post an Instagram and it doesn’t get a lot of likes, I literally feel sad/disappointed (#notnormal)
  • I feel anxiety if I’ve been off social media or not active enough because I’ll be out of the loop

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^”Oh god, come on, I need at least 100 likes or I must take it down!”

 

My point is these are pretty common thoughts shared between my friends and I. Therefore, I believe this blog post is helpful in allowing a lot of us to come forward with our addictions.

Aside from all the negative effects associated with our addictions (you know like struggling to talk to someone on the phone, multi-tasking and screwing everything up, not having face-to-face conversations and creating a disconnect between the people in front of you…just things like that), I do actually have a positive piece of news.

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This is not entirely our fault. By ‘our fault,’ I am referring to our generation. According to Claude Fischer, the absence of conversation is NOT NEW. Say whaaaat?!?!

People have alienated themselves from other people for centuries. The difference? In 2016, we’re doing it constantly and with a plethora of devices and social media forums.

Whether it was newspapers or the invention of television, people have found ways to alienate themselves and have some alone time. However unlike finishing today’s newspaper or turning off the TV, social media is always present. We can’t seem to shut it down and that’s not our fault.

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Last, but not least. What can be do to alleviate our addictions?

Simple.

UNPLUG.

  • Monitor your time online. 
  • Limit how often you have access to the sites. 
  • Find a group or buddy to help keep you accountable.

Seriously though, get off your phones and get out there. Look around and live in the moment. Spark up a conversation and actually talk to people. Promise yourself to have at least one meal a day without your phone or any social media.

Trust me, we all need a break.

You’ll thank me later for this.

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GIFS: courtesy of giphy.com
Images: courtesy of Instagram (@elitedaily)
Bibliography
Fischer, C. (2015) Turkle, times, technology, Trauma–Yet again. Available at: https://madeinamericathebook.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/turkle-times-technology-trauma-yet-again/ (Accessed: 1 May 2016).
Kramer, A., Guillory, J. and Hancock, J. (2014) Editorial expression of concern and correction. Available at: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788.full.pdf (Accessed: 3 May 2016).
Schwartz, T. (2015) Addicted to distraction. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/opinion/sunday/addicted-to-distraction.html?_r=0 (Accessed: 2 May 2016).
Staff, A. (2012) Social media addiction. Available at: https://www.addiction.com/3334/social-media-addiction/ (Accessed: 1 May 2016).
Turkle, S. (2016) Stop Googling. Let’s talk. Available at: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/09/27/opinion/sunday/stop-googling-lets-talk.html?_r=0 (Accessed: 3 May 2016).

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One comment

  1. Jay Colby · May 5, 2016

    Awesome post I look forward to reading more from you in the future!

    http://jaycolby.com/

    Like

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