Social Media Today’s story “The Social Addiction – It’s Worse Than We Think” got me thinking that whilst social media has become so prevalent, many people still don’t get it. By that I don’t mean “I don’t understand social media, what is Facebook?” What I mean is that most people don’t understand that social media is no longer ‘something new’. It is, in fact, something that is simply a popular communication 'channel'.
The story highlighted a recent study amongst 1,000+ students from 10 countries across five continents. The study was created to identify and assess the impact social media abstinence had on these individuals.
The ‘concerns’ raised by the study was that many of the participants had expressed symptoms that one would often associate with addiction and withdrawal. These symptoms included itchy skin, a sense of panic and paranoia, feelings of loneliness and most interestingly, hostility to those individuals around them who were still free to text and connect with others via mobile and internet connected devices. In fact many participants used the word ‘withdrawal’ when reporting back on the outcomes
But this study mined a young demographic that is so embedded in technology that you cannot simply separate them from it. This is a generation born during the internet boom, a generation that has (to a lesser or greater degree) had greater access to internet devices and technology than any generation before them.
Secondly, this is also a generation that has grown up (or at least been introduced to) with social media as a social norm. MySpace and Facebook were born when they were at school or college. Without revealing my age, mobile phones were quite new when I was at University.
In a nod to one of the comments on the story, if you take something away from someone who has gotten so used to it being around, of course they will miss it. Of course they will experience certain elements of withdrawal and of course they will crave the thing that they can no longer have.
Let’s look at the broader context of social media in the workplace. Most companies have a ‘social media usage in the workplace’ policy . But this isn't because its an addiction that needs to be controlled. It's because it’s just a communication channel which just so happens to be highly prevalent and deeply engrained into how we live and work.
So to wrap up this post I’d like to use myself as an analogy for my views. Most people who meet me for the first time will quickly surmise, quite easily, that I like to talk... a lot. Hold a hand over my mouth and ask me to shut up and I can guarantee you I will get fidgety.