The world is in a whirlwind transition period between the introduction of car phones and the boom of social mediums like Vine and Oovoo. I liken it to the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries; the social media explosion has impacted each of our lives and we will never be the same again. Many of us are still trying to figure out how to cope. Dating has evolved, marriages have new dynamics, family dinners have been affected, keeping in touch with Grandma has been tweaked, and so on and so forth. Social media has arrived and it has dug its heels into the soil.
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I’ve got an Instagram account, Twitter, and Facebook account, but I’ve had to learn to use them in moderation. Checking each account is habitual for me, almost to the point of muscle memory. I can probably find the app icons on my smart phone with my eyes closed. Some days, I’m on social media overload so bad that forty-five minutes can blow by in the blink of an eye. I am a recovering social media addict. Some of you reading this are addicts, but don’t want to call it that. No one ever wants to admit that he/she has an addiction, but if you’re unsure, an article by Ruth C. Engs might help. Engs is Professor Emeritus (retired professor) of Applied Health Science from Indiana University and has identified ten common characteristics among addictive behaviors:
- Obsession- constantly thinking of the object, activity, or substance
- Engaging in the behavior even though it is causing harm
- Compulsively engaging in the activity, that is, doing the activity over and over even if one does not want to and find it difficult to stop.
- Having withdrawal symptoms after stopping the activity such as irritability, craving, restlessness or depression.
- Losing control as to when, how long, or how much one will continue the behavior
- Denying problems resulting from one’s engagement in the behavior, even though others can see the negative effects.
- Hiding the behavior after family or close friends have mentioned their concern.
- Blacking out for the duration of the time one is engaging in the behavior (losing track of time).
- Suffering from depression
- Possessing low self esteem and experiencing anxiety in situations when one feels that he/she is not in control.
If we’re honest with ourselves, many of us can identify with several of these behaviors in relation to our use and abuse of social media. If we continue that honesty, we can also identify ways in which our use of social media has negatively impacted our interpersonal relationships. If you’ve ever had an argument with your significant other or a family member pertaining to the do’s and dont’s of social media use, then you understand full well what I mean. Some social media behaviors can kill an otherwise healthy relationship. In other situations, some relationships will never get off the ground. Plenty of social caterpillars looking for intimacy and friendships will never become social butterflies. Social media has stunted their growth. Yes, social media can be abused and a person can become addicted.
The first step to conquering addiction is admitting that you’re addicted. Do you take a selfie in the pews during church? Are you prone to checking for Facebook notifications between bites on a dinner date? Does your idea of a wonderful evening involve a Snuggie, a couch, and twitter for four hours? Yes, it’s funny today and no one wants to believe that his/her social media behavior is problematic. Time will tell though, and you don’t want to alienate the one’s close to you by being consumed by an addiction to social media. Unplug from time to time. Go walking, sit outside in the sunlight, read a book, enjoy dinner without phones or computers, and remember that life without electronics is still rewarding and wonderful.