Hooked on tweets, likes and status updates?
Social media has had a huge impact on how people communicate with each other, and some people claim to be addicted. But how bad is it really? Amy Cheng reports.
A recent survey conducted by Boost Mobile has found that youths are increasingly admitting to being ‘addicted’ to social media.
Out of 500 participants from 16 – 25 years of age, 68 per cent said they checked their social media feeds 10 times a day.
Joe Hughes, spokesperson for N O W! Communications, said this addicted behaviour could cause problems if it interrupts work or study time.
“It’s almost like smoking a cigarette at work,” said Mr Hughes.
“People have a cigarette and take 10 minutes, so six cigarettes is about an hour’s work. Stats show that people are spending more than one hour a day on social media.”
However, Dr Philip Tam, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, said people check social media sites because they are compelled to keep up with friends, but it is not really an addiction.
“In my clinical work I’ve honestly never seen a kid with social media addiction. All the kids I see with problems are addicted to gaming,” said Dr Tam.
Dr Tam is a co-founder of the Network for Internet Investigation and Research Australia and is interested in Internet-related disorders and harmful behaviours.
“If you’re being harmed by it,” said Dr Tam “…that means you’re staying up ‘til four in the morning, you’re dropping out of school, you’re not eating properly, then by definition you’ve got a problem because it’s harming your day-to-day activities.”
Mr Hughes said social media is becoming more and more prevalent, with Facebook being the most popular social media site.
90 per cent of participants in the survey are active users on Facebook.
“It’s so simple to use, and it’s a great way to engage with all your friends,” said Mr Hughes.
“It’s all encompassing… quick updates about where they are and what they are doing, and sharing photos.”
However, Dr Tam said this type of multitasking is not ideal. Many teenagers believe they can have six different screens open at a time and give them equal attention, but research shows this is not true, he said.
“It’s not cognitively possible to be doing six things at the same time. You’re actually wasting time switching your attention from one thing to another.”
Dr Tam suggested that people should spend around 5 – 10 minutes on one task, giving it their full attention, and then check their status updates or messages.
Mr Hughes said that if social media is used in a healthy way it could be an incredibly useful tool, and a great way to maintain relationships.
“As long as people use social media to organise catch ups with their friends, and their real friends, not just friends they met online, it’s a wonderful tool to keep social interactions continuing,” he said.
Mr Hughes said that, despite the rise in social media use, survey members indicated that they still prefer to engage with their friends offline.
The appeal of social media is that it allows users to keep in touch with their friends when they’re not around. It enables them to share their experiences with each other, keeping friends up to date on where they have been and what they have done.
“So, [this is true] whether it’s at a music concert,” said Mr Hughes, “Or whether it is seeing their favourite bands, or seeing a celebrity on the street, or out at night with their mates.”