If you’re currently in a public place, look around. Chances are good that you’ll see at least one person nearby fitting this description: Neck bent, thumbs flapping wildly across a glossy screen. Don’t judge, it’s an addiction.
At least, that’s what the researchers are saying.
A recent study out from Amsterdam’s Vrije University found that simply seeing the logo of a popular social media site can cause “spontaneous pleasure cravings” in some people, making it impossible to resist logging on.
The study, carried out by Dr. Guido van Koningsbruggen, concluded that the urge to scroll through a social media site can even be as addictive as nicotine and chocolate for some folks.
“Failures to resist social media temptations may eventually negatively affect well-being,” the researcher said.
While spending copious amounts of time using social media obviously isn’t as bad for your health as alcoholism, smoking or overeating, there’s plenty of evidence that overindulgence in the technology can put a damper on your well-being.
A study published last year in the journal Depression and Anxiety concluded that the more time young adults spent using social media, the more likely they were to have symptoms of depression.
Another study linked social media overuse to sleep problems.
Beyond the research, there’s the ironic anti-social result of spending too much time engrossed in social media: Keeping up constantly with the lives and times of all those “friends” leaves less time to enrich and enjoy the relationships with the people closest to you, literally.
It’s a horror playing out in households throughout the nation as you read this. Mothers, fathers, children, even grandparents, sitting around in the same room, slack-jawed and scrolling in silence.
Conversations and memories missed, replaced with the conversations and memories of thousands of strangers, acquaintances and fair-weather friends beamed into the family room through a server in Silicon Valley.
And look how exciting all these other folks’ lives are, while I’m stuck here with all these silent bores.
If you’ve ever experienced a little such silent envy, you probably aren’t alone. That’s the funny thing about the ability to curate every aspect of one’s public persona, a bunch of really boring people are constantly posing, tweeting and presenting to convince the world– and, most tragically, themselves– that they aren’t.
Doesn’t it seem like there are hell of a lot more photographers, models and professional nobodies than there used to be? It isn’t, as Nancy Pelosi once suggested, because Obamacare gave them all the freedom to pursue their artistic visions. It’s because faking is easier than ever before.
There’s some other research out there suggesting a correlation between the increase in social media usage and rising rates of infidelity in romantic relationships. Correlation isn’t causation– and there are plenty of perfectly good reasons relationships fall apart– but it isn’t really difficult to imagine a narrative to go along with those findings.
Back in the family room full of slack-jaws, one of the adults is thinking that old Jane or John from the past is looking pretty good these days.
And old Jane or John, similarly disenchanted, is thrilled to catch up.
Connection made. A new fling is born.
Once everything gets split down the middle and everyone’s lawyer gets a cut, you shouldn’t have any trouble pointing out the new happy couple. They’ll probably pose for a few selfies together and change their “relationship status” across accounts. And after the shiny newness wears off, they’ll be the ones in the restaurant staring silently at their devices, wondering how they were attracted to such a boring dolt.
What a cycle.
Social media, of course, isn’t totally bad for us.
Until the nannies win their war on the 1st Amendment, the technology will continue to be a powerful tool for activists and citizen journalists to spread messages once quashed by information gatekeepers. And it’s a pretty nice tool for catching up with old friends and business acquaintances. It also starts plenty of healthy romantic relationships and gives lonely folks a venue to meet new friends. All good.
But there’s still plenty of reason to tune out from time to time. Like just after you share this…
Take a walk. Look at the sky. Watch some birds through the window. Try out the calling function on your phone and reach out to a real friend you somehow haven’t caught up with in a few months or years. Or go somewhere and have a conversation with a stranger.
Of course, for many American families today, that last one won’t even require leaving the house.