For most people, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are harmless platforms that allow for social interaction and personal expression. For others, social media has become more than an entertaining form of engagement; it has become an increasing compulsion. The question is – can a person really become addicted to social media?
This is a notion that psychologists and researchers are beginning to address, and recent studies suggest that yes, this may be a serious opportunity for addiction.
The Science of Social Media
The University of Chicago recently conducted one such study and found social media to be even more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. Addictions are, after all, about feeding a compelling urge, and one of the greatest human urges is the yearning to feel connected and a part of something larger.
Nothing satisfies this particular urge like logging on and being social with the masses at any hour of the day or night. Desires for social media are difficult to control because of the easy-access availability of it, and because giving in to these social urges seems far less harmful than giving into drugs or nicotine.
Another interesting finding in the research was the correlation between low self-esteem and social network addiction. Being social online is easier for people who suffer from self-esteem issues, and within this group, an addiction to sites like Facebook and Twitter is much more easily formed.
Address Your Addiction
Are you guilty of checking your Facebook account before you even get out of bed in the morning? Do you tweet while on a romantic first date? You may think your own social media habits are harmless, but how do you know if you’ve crossed the line into an addiction?
One way to check yourself is to evaluate your feelings about social media. For instance, when you don’t have access to it, say while on vacation or at an event such as a wedding, do you feel anxious and can think of little besides what you’re missing online? Would it be an accurate statement to say that social media brings you the most pleasure in your life? If you answered yes to these questions, then it might be time to address your relationship with social media.
Don’t be a Victim
One of the best things you can do to reign in your addiction is to keep track of exactly how much time you spend on sites like Facebook and Twitter. It’s a good idea to schedule your social media time and stick to that schedule no matter what. Close down your web browsers and remove desktop/smartphone applications like Tweetdeck that could potentially tempt you. Use a good old-fashioned alarm clock so that your cell phone doesn’t linger by your bedside and keep you from precious hours of sleep. Essentially, you must be your own gatekeeper and make sure you’re getting the important tasks accomplished every day, tasks that actually grow your business.
On the Plus Side
The flip side to social media addiction is that it can have a positive effect on your marketing strategies once you know exactly how your own customers use social sites. Study your market and familiarize yourself with what kind of content your audience tends favors and how that content is generally shared.
Most importantly, always acknowledge and abide by social media’s ‘golden rule’ – Never sell to your market. Instead, engage with them and serve them value, making sure to always be upfront and transparent.
It’s Okay to be “Anti-Social”
There is no doubt that social media will continue to shape the way we live and conduct our business online. In the midst of this, it is wise to remember that a little goes a long way, and sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.
If it weren’t for my socially pumped iPhone complete with a Pinterest app, Facebook app, and Twitter app, I don’t know how I would survive doctor’s waiting rooms and long lines at the grocery store.
However, as a die-hard Patriots fan, I willingly stayed clear of all forms of social media for an entire week post Super Bowl. To my own dismay, I did not suffer from withdrawals, so I think it’s safe to say that I am not addicted to social media, but I sure do like it a lot!