The Social Media Addiction Debate

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Social Media Addiction – To be, or not to be, that is the question

Reading Time: 11 min Never have they been so sophisticated in the ways they encourage users to engage, stay on and come back for more.

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The social media addiction global debate has intensified in 2019

A lot more people, companies, organizations, educational institutions, and governmental bodies are getting involved and the social media executive teams are taking part too, as well as an overwhelming media coverage.

Trying to get your head around on what is going on and who says what, when and where is difficult. I have looked into and listen to both sides of the debate and hope that this blog posts will give you some insights.

What is social media addiction?

According to Wikipedia   “Social Media Addiction is a proposed diagnosis related to overuse of social media, similar to Internet addiction and other forms of digital media overuse.”

Hooked on Social Media

It is difficult to find anything which applies to billions of people as online social networks do.

Do you check Facebook every ten minutes every day?

Do you hit the “Like Buttons” more than you spent time talking with people face-to-face?

Is Instagram more imperative to you than using time with your family?

Why are a large majority of social media users getting so hooked up to likes, shares, comments, and scrolling for hours?

Online life at social media has turned out to be the most significant time-killer for today’s children and teenagers; most can’t accept at all to be without their smartphones.    

Access to social media and gaming software has never been so easy and massive as it is today. Never have they been so sophisticated in the ways they encourage users to engage, stay on and come back for more.

Do you think the statements in the debate is correct regarding that that they design social media to keep us hooked up and that our brains are on the line?   Read further and learn more about opinions and some facts too.

Social media addiction is a growing concern

Many psychiatrists believe that social media causing depression and anxiety in people. It is also a cause of poor mental growth in children. Increased use of social media can lead to poor sleeping patterns. There are many other negative effects including the “likes”, cyber-bullying, face and body image issues. There is an increased ‘Fear of Missing out’ at an all-time high in youth because of social media.

Online social networking sites (SNSs) have gained increasing popularity in the last decade, with individuals engaging in SNSs to connect with others who share similar interests. The perceived need to be online may result in compulsive use of SNSs, which in extreme cases may result in symptoms and consequences traditionally associated with substance-related addictions.

Mark Griffiths, Ph.D.
Chartered Psychologist and Director, International Gaming Research Unit, Psychology Division,Nottingham Trent University.

On the other side of the debate, other psychiatrists state that there is not any solid evidence that people get addicted to social media — and using it could be beneficial. Some research on this phenomenon has been characterized by poorly done studies and bad science.

In 2017, Professor Andrew Przybylski co-authored a study published in the journal Psychological Science in which he examined the effect of screen-time on a sample of over 120,000 British adolescents.

They asked teens how much time they spent streaming, gaming, and using their smartphones and computers. After running the data through a series of statistical analyses. It became clear to Przybylski that screen-time isn’t harmful to the vast majority of teens. In fact, it’s sometimes helpful — especially when teens are using it for two to four hours per day.

“Overall, the evidence indicated that moderate use of digital technology is not intrinsically harmful and may be advantageous in a connected world,”

Professor Andrew Przybylski
Psychologist and Director of Research,
Oxford Internet Institute

Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, is calling for a broad consideration of the effect social media is having on our society.

Jeffrey A. Singer – Practices General Surgery and a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, has joined the debate several times. 

Jeffrey Singer; Stop Saying Social Media- Addiction - FlashPortals Magazine
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

He is one of the front-runners for the arguments that social media addiction not exist and that freedom of speech is on the line. Read more in the few sections below, which is from two of his articles.

Stop saying social media is an “addiction”

The American Society of Addiction Medicine define addiction as “chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry … characterized by the inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, [and] craving” that continues despite the resulting destruction of relationships, economic conditions, and health. Addiction has a biopsychosocial basis with a genetic predisposition and involves neurotransmitters and interactions within reward centers of the brain. The interaction of these factors has not been established with respect to social media use.

But regulation of the internet and social media content has serious implications for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of association.

The Panic over ‘Social Media Addiction’ Threatens Free Speech

As governments become more enmeshed in the internet and social media activity, threats to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of association become increasingly real.

Today, much of the conversation regarding internet and social media activity takes place in the public square, in the lay media and on pop culture platforms. There are no policy proposals beyond the level of conjecture. There is still time to prevent public discourse from evolving into a public panic.

Journalists, commentators, and lawmakers must be more accurate and precise with their terminology. They must resist the temptation to confer legitimacy on an unproven “addiction,” and they should be called out when they do so. This is not nitpicking. And it is more than healthy skepticism. Many of our freedoms are at risk.

Source: Date 23 April 2019 – Read Full Article by Jeffrey A. Singer


Denzel Washington on Social Media – CBN News Interview

Digging further

I investigated scientific studies and articles written by researchers who specialize in psychology, sociology, addiction, and statistics. I found further experts which emphatic that social media addiction is real and should be added to the DSM IV, long considered the diagnostic bible for psychologists. Others hedged their bets and said we need more studies.

So where does it leave us?

Let’s learn more “straight from the horse’s mouth”

In 2010 Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, told in an interview that our kids haven’t tried the iPad; “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” Find it surprised?  Walter Isaacson, Jobs’ hand-picked official biographer after the interview asked if he believed this was true and confirmed that it was.

Steve Jobs is not alone, Bill Gates, Former CEO of Microsoft; apparently barred his own kids from getting cell phones until they turned 14. He also introduced in 2007 a screen time cap when he feared that his daughter was developing an addiction to a video game.

Ten years later, it seems that a large number of other tech people are starting to catch up with their concerns about what technology is doing to us — and particularly to our kids.

Mark Zuckerberg, the man who created Facebook; He once said that the solution to the broken school system is introducing more technology. He also believes that Facebook brings people together and wants the whole world to use services like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. However, at his home, technology apparently takes a backseat for his daughters. Before they get hooked to a device with a screen, he wants his daughters Maxima and August to “read Dr. Seuss and play outside” rather than use Facebook Messenger Kids. Should you have missed the public letter he wrote and posted at Facebook to his daughter, focusing on the magic and importance of play,  you can read it here.

Recently, Sean Parker, former president of Facebook, has in interviews claimed; 

“God only knows what Social Media are doing to our children’s brains.”

  • Top people in the IT industry, including people from some of the largest social media network, are protecting their children by limiting their interaction with social media and smartphones;

  • Silicon Valley based companies are developing smartphones, apps and social media to get people hooked up has made headlines;

  • Facebook and Instagram have in 2018 introduced a tool to help us manage the time we spend on Facebook and Instagram to help their users combat social media addiction and manage the time they spend on the apps;

  • People in the industry and government people say it is a case for state regulation;

  • It has moved the lines in the debate to obvious indications of that social media addiction is real and the conclusion is uncomfortable for Silicon Valley, because the driver is an advertising business model in which clicks and screen time translate into billions of dollars of revenues and profits.

Face to Face Communication replaced by Social Media
Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Why Silicon Valley is turning against the machines

A spectre is haunting Silicon Valley – the spectre of regulation and limits on social-media and smartphone technologies. This is a remarkable development. Not only is the demand for action on ‘tech addiction’ coming from within that citadel of free enterprise and entrepreneurship itself, but it is also being driven by some of Silicon Valley’s brightest and most creative talents – insiders, that is, who have been intimately involved in the development of those very technologies now regarded as socially corrosive.

So it was, in April, that Tristan Harris entered the fray. A former product designer and ethicist at Google, he launched a roadshow to draw attention to the harmful effect social media and smartphones are having on society. Together with Aza Raskin, his co-founder of the not-for-profit Center for Humane Technology, Harris wants Silicon Valley to face up to the ‘inconvenient truth’ that, while it has been ‘upgrading machines’, it has been ‘downgrading humanity’.

Harris has emerged as the conscience of Silicon Valley. Over the past two years, he has been on a mission to get social-media tech giants to address the dark side of social media and smartphones. According to Harris and friends, social media and smartphones have not just hacked the attention of users – they are also downgrading humanity by driving addictive behaviors.

The obsession with likes and followers is having a negative effect on young people’s self-esteem, he argues. Certain features – like auto-play on YouTube and Netflix, which feeds videos continuously unless users turn it off – are apparently driving this addiction.

Also, like the pink-haired data-science geek and whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, who was at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Harris believes that this technology is at the root of political polarisation and fake news. Having studied alongside other leading and highly talented techies at Stanford University’s Persuasive Technology Lab, where they were taught psychological techniques that grab and hold people’s attention, his concern is that social-media giants are ‘designing a psychological infrastructure that runs people’s lives’.

Source: Date 10 May 2019 – Read Full Article Here

Tristan Harris, co-founder of the not-for-profit Center for Humane Technology, in a CNBC interview  – sourced at Twitter

My Son’s Computer and PlayStation Game Addiction

On my son’s nine years birthday, we gave him his first computer, which he used for basic computer and program skills, his schoolwork, Internet, reading and a few computer games.

The year after on his ten years birthday we capitulated on his highest wish; a “PlayStation.” We were not particularly happy about this gift, but his friends had one.

We thought he would be able to keep the games limited to a reasonable time and keep up with his normal daily activities including school homework. We were wrong; the games and especially one game got out of hand. It was “all time, every day,” except for his time at school and when we forced him to bed. “Our son had become addicted to a PlayStation game.”

Computer and PlayStation Game Addiction

We tried to handle it in a nice way by giving him a limitation in the use of the PlayStation and that he every day should spend time outdoors playing with friends. It didn’t work; so I told him that I would take the PlayStation if he continued. After three more warnings, I removed the PlayStation. He was shocked and told me; “that I could not do that.” He even tried several times to persuade his mom to give him it back.

We now thought we had stopped his game addiction, but later we found out that he now just used his computer for the games, so in the end, we had to remove his computer too.

He got his computer back and later his PlayStation too and he had learned that there are other things in life than computers and PlayStation games.

Today computer and smartphones games are a big part of his life; he graduated as a software engineer in 2017 specialized in computer and mobile games design and development.


Before the world of social media, people still had social lives.

Social Media have replaced face-to-face communication
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Talking face to face has been replaced with individual communication via smartphones on to social media.

Have you seen what happens in restaurants? Families and friends enjoining a “good time out, at least it used to be,” instead they hardly have any kind of conversation between each other and they glue their face to the monitor of their phone.

Restaurants are only one example- it happens everywhere and most alarming, it even takes place in people’s private homes. It is not strange that children and young people get hooked up on social media when they every day see their parents having their mind far away on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other apps.

Social media affects family communication

It creates a limit, zero or negative interaction between siblings, couples, or parents-children. It affects humans relationship, communication and bonding skills.

Having a face-to-face talk establish trust and reduce and limits misconception. With no physical expressions and facial expressions and gestures, and being able to react in a matter of seconds, it elevates the danger of separation, miscommunication, and potential conflict.

Humans are brought into the world with the inborn capacity to send and translate nonverbal signals. Our brain and normal social behavior need and expect these critical channels of data. When social media replace our communication we are missing these interpersonal signs, and the communication suffers.

Face-to-face communication is important for human social life, without we will become isolated and lonely. 

Never let the social media take over your valuable time or control your life.

Be active in face-to-face communication and take care of people around by unplugging from the internet and connect to real life.

The bright side of being active at social media

It is important that the debate and any potential restrictions take a careful look at the “Pros of Social Networking.” the present and the future services they will provide.  The following list is not complete, but it includes some of the ones I see at the top of the pros list.

Ability to connect to other people all over the world

One of the most obvious is the ability to instantly reach people from anywhere, or meet new people from cities or regions around in the world.

Easy and instant communication

Today, we’re connected wherever we go, we don’t have to rely on our landlines telephones, answering machines or the postman to contact somebody. We can jump on our devices and use the apps, messaging and social media we prefer.

As part of its “Missing Maps” project, the Red Cross accessed Facebook’s rich population density data to find and map people who were critically vulnerable to natural disasters and health emergencies but remained unrecorded in existing maps.

Real-time news and information are only one click away

The days are over where we had to wait for the TV and radio news or newspapers delivery boys.  If you want to read or see what’s going on in the world, you just need to jump on social media. You can choose and customize which news and the way you want to receive it.

Doing business on social media  

Business owners and other types of professional organizations can connect with customers, sell their products and expand their business and reach through social media. Many entrepreneurs and businesses operate almost entirely on social networks and wouldn’t even be able to operate without it.

Wrapping up

Having seen what digital games did to my son when he was ten years old and observed the last few years what happen to people who every day spend countless hours on the social media, I am sure we have a serious issue which we need to address as soon as possible.

I believe it is possible to become addicted to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other networking apps, especially children and young people. 

The only way to stop it is by limit the time they are able to browse social media. Technical it should not be very difficult.

The concerns regarding our freedoms and rights must be addressed carefully. It has already turned into a politics and legal battle, which will be a long-term debate.

Please join the debate by submitting your comments below, and share the post. Time for more? Jump over to the Social Media Flash Video Portal.

Thank you for your time.

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