We have all heard of alcohol, drug and even sex addiction but not so much the 21st century obsession which is social networking. Ever since Facebook came on the scene to the masses in 2004, there has been a steady incline of internet related addiction cases in which users are isolated from the outside world, have little or no ‘real’ friends and rely solely on social network for stimulation. They become hermits who, like many other addiction sufferers, resent anything that gets in the way of their obsession whether it be work, friends or family.
Behavioural characteristics of someone suffering internet addiction, which more than likely involves social networking sites include spending large amounts of time on the internet, putting the internet before family and friends and considering it more important than fundamental life basics such as work, eating and sleeping. Sufferers can also become panicky and irrational if they find themselves away from a computer even for a few minutes so daily tasks and treats such as holidays and evenings out are impossible.
In the grand scheme of things, the advent of the internet and its use by over half of the population is a relatively recent phenomenon. Only a generation ago, the internet was something companies installed for their employees but most households did not have access to it. Now, everyone from toddlers to pensioners are likely to be able to log on whenever they wish.
Young People And Social Sites
It is the younger generation however, which appear to be more prone to developing an addiction. In a world where social status is everything, Facebook and similar sites such as Twitter make it very obvious where users are in the pecking order. From Facebook friend tallies to self congratulatory statuses, to uploading pictures of the latest luxury car or holiday that has been enjoyed, it is relatively easy to feel insecure and inadequate about your life in relation to the widely successful and popular lives of your Facebook ‘friends.’ Teenagers and young adults, females especially, are vulnerable to feeling unworthy compared to their peers and can develop obsessions with checking what is going on in the lives of others. What they don’t realise however, is the people who appear to have it all rarely do and some may even be experiencing the same feelings of inadequacy.
Studies have shown that there could be a genetic element when it comes to social networking addiction and the same one that is credited with an addition to smoking. Although much more research needs to be done on the subject, it appears that some people may be far more prone to problems with social networking than others.
There are some benefits to social networking sites which cannot be overlooked. Getting back in touch with long lost friends and relatives, maintaining long distance relationships and catching up on the lives with people you see very rarely is also much easier now that we can use the likes of Facebook. Schoolwork and communicating with co-workers out of hours can also benefit as pupils and co-workers can discuss and compare ideas over the sites in real time rather than having to pick up the phone and call individuals separately. However, it appears to some that the negatives outweigh the benefits. People who spend a huge amount of time on the web are very vulnerable to internet pests, people claiming to be who they are not and bullying, with internet ‘trolls’ rising at an alarming rate.
The best way to minimise the possibly of internet and social networking addiction is for parents to monitor their children’s use very carefully. Install child protection settings so they cannot access the web by themselves if you are unable to keep a close eye on them and make sure you know the friends they have on the sites. If you are an adult and feel you could develop an addiction, make sure you keep a check on how much time you spend online. If you start spending more time than you used to on the internet, pare it down and take a break. Be aware of your weaknesses, your habits and just keep on top of them.
Author: Jenny B has a huge social network and is part of the social media team at Ladbrokes Online; Jenny has brought to you this great article and is raising awarness, internet security and safety is very important so take note!