Social networks were once an extension of our everyday lives, something we used when we were bored and had some free time in our hands. Over time, socializing over the internet has taken over our lives, to the point where many people are now suffering from social network addiction and shunning real life relationships in favor of virtual ones.
A number of studies are now showing that our love for virtual socializing has become an addiction for many. Gadget-advice site Retrevo conducted a study in 2010 and found that 42 percent of people open their Facebook or check their Twitter account as soon as they wake up – sometimes before they even get out of bed. Probably more telling is the fact that 24 percent of people text message while in the bathroom and 32 percent would interrupt their restaurant meal just to answer a message. Begin by look at your own uses and think about how annoying it can be to others when you interrupt a conversation for a text message. One of the best movie lines is from “The Devil Wears Prada” where her boyfriend says to Emily, “the person who’s call you take is the relationship you are in” when Emily takes a call from Miranda while in a conversation with him. Also, if you’re text message is more important than the person you are with then they run your life because you don’t.
That need for virtual interaction has moved beyond social networking places. Social shopping is a new form of e-commerce that allows you to interact with virtual friends during the actual shopping experience.
Social shopping marketplaces such as Groupon act like a bazar of sorts, where you can get in touch with others who are buying or selling their wares, while shopping communities such as Kaboodle allow you to discuss products with fellow shoppers or ask for advice on an item you’re considering.
Social shopping apps such as Pose and Fashism are blurring the lines between social shopping and social networks. Pose allows you to take photos of your shopping experience (or the items you take home) and immediately upload them online, so you can get feedback from the virtual community. Fashism is a similar app, although Pose has a “friends-only” setting option, while Fashism allows everybody in the network to see your posts. Part of the attraction of these sites relies on the fact that they allow you to “take a friend along” when you go shopping, even if it’s not a real one.
Experts believe people with low self-esteem problems or suffering from depression are more likely to become virtual addicts. Virtual lives don’t present the same level of challenge and risk than real-world connections, which is why many people decide to rely on them to find friendship and “conversation.”
Could you be a social media addict? Experts recommend looking out for these clues:
- You spend more time online than interacting with real people
- You cancel plans with your real-life friends in order to follow a Twitter chat or series of updates
- You feel panicky if you’re on vacation somewhere and you can’t access your Facebook account regularly
- How important is it to check for updates? In the Retrevo study, 19 percent of people admitted to checking their Twitter account in the middle of the night if they happened to wake up to use the bathroom, and 40 percent admitted to doing it while driving. If this sounds like something you would do, you might have an addiction problem.
As long as you use it in moderation and not as a replacement for real-life interaction and relationships, social media can improve and enrich your life. It’s only when it becomes an excuse to hide from the world that you should start to worry.