Previously, I posted an infographic which dealt with the intricacies of social media addiction, its impacts on one’s day to day life, and, finally, how to tell if one was addicted. One of the most distressing features of that infographic was, without a doubt, the revelation of just how many people from the younger generation are, for all intents and purposes, addicted to social networking or the Internet in some way, shape, or form. The fact that four out of five people in a University of Maryland study displayed negative side-effects when disconnected from technology for a day is bad enough. That they displayed symptoms similar to drug addicts is almost chilling.
It’s a phenomenon that’s been termed “Information Withdrawal,” and it’s more than just an addiction to social networks. It’s more than just a compulsion to play Farmville, or to check your news-feed, or to post daily tweets. It’s a need for connectivity – a need for your cell phone, your laptop, your tablet. It’s a need for modern technology, without which one feels lost, confused, and afraid.
Maybe it’s genetic. Maybe not. At this point, we know too little to say for certain. We simply haven’t done enough research.
On some level, though it sort of makes sense that there’d be such a general, ingrained need, when one stops to think about it. After all, many of us spent our childhood with smartphones, and computers, and game consoles. For many of us, they were companions just as constant as friends or family. Even those of us who haven’t have probably grown so used to modern conveniences, so comfortable with them, that we can’t imagine going without them for even a day.
Not only that, we’ve had bred into us a sense of urgency. A sense that we’re always missing something; there’s always something vital we need to be attending to online. Our friends are making plans without us. There’s an awesome story we could be reading. Our YouTube subscriptions are being updated. Our inboxes are overloaded with emails. People are trying to reach us, and we’re not available. We’re alienating ourselves.
People online are having fun without us.
The question of what we can do about this is a very, very difficult one to answer. It’s pessimistic, but it might be better to ask if there’s anything we really can do. Internet addiction isn’t like alcoholism, or nicotine addiction, or a gambling problem. It doesn’t generally cost us any money, and it’s not considered socially unacceptable like excessive drinking. It’s not stigmatized like gambling and drugs, and it’s not consistently labelled as unhealthy like smoking. I’ve said before that the Internet is the lifeblood of our society. The Western world all but requires it in order to function.
How can we possibly kick an addiction to something that many of us actually require for our day to day lives?
We’ll look at the issue – as well as how one might deal with the addiction – next time.