In the 21st century, most of us will use one form of social networking or another, whether it is Facebook, Twitter or any other of the mediums out there. And many of us will have joked about being obsessed with how many notifications or followers we have. However, how do we know when it moves from something everyone is doing to something that is out of control and detrimental to our wellbeing? How do we know we are addicted to social networking?
This week it was revealed that premier league footballer Marvin Sordell is receiving help from his club, Bolton Wanderers, for addiction to Twitter and Facebook. This is something that I fear is going to be a situation we hear about more and more frequently, and in the same way that alcohol was initially viewed as non-harmful, I think we will experience a spiral in the number of people needing treatment for internet addiction to social networking. There are currently around 33 million people in the UK using Facebook and 11 million using Twitter.
That jolt that many of us experience when we see a notification or a retweet has been scientifically proven to be due to a surge of dopamine, a chemical which has long been known to play a huge role in addictive behaviour. There are lots of different psychological factors involved in social networking too. Having people approve of the way we present ourselves via statuses, tweets or pictures validates us and boosts our self-esteem. Monitoring our newsfeed closely ensures we are not left out of anything important that is happening around us and promotes a sense of belonging. This desire to feel good can even lead us to dangerous activities such as checking the internet on our smartphones while we are driving – which worryingly was found to apply to 8% of us last year.
So with all this information in mind, I will be attempting a digital detox (including sending my blogs to a colleague to upload for me). That means 72 hours without access to the internet (longer would be preferable however due to work commitments I don’t think that would be practical). And I guess that is one of my concerns too – in a world where everyone connects in this way, there seems a lot of negative effects that come from giving up alongside the positive ones. We’ll just have to see how I get on!