“Shall we take a selfie?” The rise of social media addiction

Photograph: Pexels
Photograph: Pexels

Many social media networks were created to help “connect” an increasingly globalised world and economy. As they develop, however, social media seems to be a convenient excuse to not do just that: connect.

Dr. Shannon M. Rauch, of Benedictine University at Mesa says one of the main reasons we now use social media is because of boredum.

“For those who post updates, the reinforcements keep coming in the form of supportive comments and ‘likes.’ And of course we know that behaviours that are consistently reinforced will be repeated, so it becomes hard for a person who has developed this habit to simply stop.”

I hear it daily – “Please ‘like’ my picture, I am getting social anxiety” or “Did it go viral?” or “Shall we take a ‘selfie’?” – and, contrary to popular suggestion, not just from teenagers.

Daily interaction with social media has become automatic and almost robotic, from obsessive picture taking to witty short (emphasis on the word ‘short’) comments. A platform originally invented to help us think outside the square box is helping us think in a social media shaped one instead, seemingly perpetuating more noise then news.

In 2012, researchers in Norway published a psychological scale to measure Facebook addiction. It was called the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS) and was based on measuring six basic criteria, against the following 5 responses to each one: (1) Very rarely, (2) Rarely, (3) Sometimes, (4) Often, and (5) Very often.

  •  You spend a lot of time thinking about [Facebook] or planning how to use it.
  • You feel an urge to use [Facebook] more and more.
  •  You use [Facebook] in order to forget about personal problems.
  •  You have tried to cut down on the use of [Facebook] without success.
  • You become restless or troubled if you are prohibited from using [Facebook].
  • You use [Facebook]so much that it has had a negative impact on your work.

It was suggested that scoring “often” or “very often” on at least four items may suggest that the respondent is addicted to the network. Social media is rapidly becoming a widespread addiction. One can easily remove Facebook and insert any social media platform and still get the same result.

We sign our data over willingly (perhaps even absent-mindedly) to these networks that have recently been known to even manipulate our personal information for the use of social experiments.

Social media has found a void to fill: in ourselves – our boredom, our need for self-distraction and our self-esteem. Are we letting it turn us into a generation of spiritual anorexics; one which values instant gratification or who bases their self-worth on ‘likes’?

When was the last time you asked for directions instead of using your phone or thought creatively beyond one sentence or picture?

Think about it.

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Miriam Abilama 1 Article
Miriam is a London-based writer and corporate communications professional who believes in the power of words.

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