The common scene everyone witnesses while they are in a public place, travelling, at social gatherings and even in closed door meetings everyone around us is glued to their mobile smart phones. You can witness this everywhere, even in your home, may be your spouse or your children does the same thing. If you have not noticed it, it would only mean that you yourself indulged in it and this is a well-known fact that most of them would be browsing through their social media.
Social media has penetrated in to the life of a common man, even the ones who does not know how to boot a computer. All thanks to the smartphones, high speed internet facilities and the user friendly applications. The platform which was introduced as a space for people to interact with their loved ones, the ones who are not easily accessible, to share important information, to express their ideas and suggestions, update events and happenings of importance, has gradually become one where asocial and introverts started finding virtual friends with whom they could interact freely, a ventilation to their social needs which they could not satisfy in their real life. The belief of being anonymous on the platform has made them use it as a space for free expression of their needs, motives, implicit thoughts, their pent up emotions and unfulfilled desires, which they could never express even to their close ones or in any other social groups and situations. The social media has become a platform for people to satisfy their need for acceptance, recognition and ventilation and for their other attention seeking motives. While some people with passive personality traits try to learn how to use the platform purposefully to express their productive, creative ideas and opinions related to various issues which they find difficult to do in their real life, and for many others It became a place for expressing their aggressive motives and involving in virtual aggression which may be physical, emotional, sexual or social. Social media is now becoming a space where people are living a virtual life. The numbers of people who have been consistently using it, have started living this virtual life more than the time they live in their real life. This status has gradually been increasing. While many of them fail to distinguish between the virtual and the real life, others are deliberately decreasing the time they spend on real life to enjoy the life in this virtual space. They find it distressing to be away from virtual world and long for the first opportunity to get back to it. They believe that it is a the cure to alleviate their distress. Once someone is approaching this stage we can infer that they are actually in to the process of getting addicted to the social media.
Social media addiction is a reality of the today’s world, Its not just a virtual belief but an existing fact and this rise in the numbers is occurring at a very high pace without regardless of age, gender and society. The most vulnerable people are the ones who feel lonely, the ones who feel that they are not being properly understood by people around them, the ones who believe that they are victims of reality and wants to escape from it, the ones who lacks opportunities or have difficulty in expressing their thoughts and emotions, the ones who are guided by the need for recognition and the ones who feel that they have been under consistent social control and suppression.
While this has been the general traits of the people who use social media extensively, based on the time and nature of usage the users can be broadly categorized into 6 types – Users, overusers, abusers, harmful users dependents and addicted. These can also be considered as the stages an user goes through before he gets to a Status of being addicted.
Users are the people who spend their free time involving is casual chat, meaningful discussion with the known friends and family circle or the ones they do meet but not frequently. These are the people who are involved in similar discussion when they meet in person or have conversation over phone calls. They limit their contacts only to close ones and use the medium only for conveying their messages which they feel can be useful or the stuff which can keep their contacts happy.
Over users are the ones who spend nearly all the time they can spare, on the social media, trying to consistently connect with more and more people and responding positively to the requests even from the unknown. They show high interest in scrolling their time line and posts uploaded by nearly everyone without actual focus on any information. Sometimes responding with the simple ques, and sharing forwarded messages indiscriminately without being bothered about their applicability, authenticity or genuineness.
Abusers are the ones who use social media to ventilate their emotions, create rumors, target the private life of people, focused on looking out for socially unacceptable materials, create memes and get involved in trolling with an intention to disgracing people. They also share contents which can cause uneasiness in the community, also they are deliberately involved in coercing or persuading the other users into discussing private sexual contents or it can later be used as a tool to blackmail them and propagate products and services that are unethical or illegal. Some abusers use the platform to create false exaggerated image about themselves with the intentions of deceit and never feel guilty for any of their damaging, misleading and destructive acts.
Harmful users are the ones who find it difficult to avoid the social media platform even when they find that it has been mortifying their productive time. They are the ones who sacrifice the activities which have been pleasurable to them earlier like sleeping for the sake of spending time in the social media. In fact most of them find solace to stress by using social media as a tool to divert their attention from real life problems. They have the tendencies to isolate themselves from their family and friends and whenever they face any restriction, they get isolated and surround themselves with social media or start maintaining secrecy about the time they spend. These users share everything on their social media accounts including very private ones and find it difficult to interact with people in real situations. Believing that the social media contacts can provide solutions to all of their problems, tag their friends on pictures or content which does not even involve these people, plan in advance about their activities and events on social media and they sometimes even create fake to avoid being detected by their known ones. They thrive to add more and more people to their network just for the sake of maintaining consistent increase in the number of contacts to increase the number of responses on whatever they post. Harmful users find it difficult to control social media activities even when they are strongly opposed by their family and friends. False promises of limiting their presence is the social media or denying the usage despite of strong evidences is a common behavior pattern that can be observed.
Dependency is the stage where the actual trouble starts. At is the stage the user has unavoidable psychological craving to stay active on the social media to the extent that they starts developing distress at the thought of the possibility of absence of internet or the platform they use is down. They frequently check their social media accounts for new updates and start feeling uncomfortable whenever there is none. Dependents become restless easily if they are unable to upload the pictures and expect response from their fellow users or friends on every post they make. They get over- excited when there are enough likes or positive comments, immediately starts feeling gloomy when there are lesser responses than expected and also when intended people does not respond to their post. It can easily be observed that they remain connected to the social media all the time even while they are travelling, eating using the rest room. The first thing they do whenever they wake up is to connect to the social media. They prefer to communicate more through social media than talking directly even when their friends are physically present with them. They find if difficult to take a break even when they experience the distress of being trolled or blackmailed by the sources in the social media. They are are of the fact that it is destroying their life but find it difficult to quit because social media as they consider an essential part of their life for which they would be willing to sacrifice anything.
Addiction is the stage when the user starts experiencing withdrawal symptoms whenever they are restricted from using social media. The initial symptom is the delusion they develop that whatever happens in the social media is real. They find it hard to differentiate between real life happenings and their experiences in social media and start exhibiting a state of confusion, high level of disturbances in working memory, deterioration in long-term memory, frequent slip into delirious state. They take excessive time to complete even simple tasks. The withdrawal symptoms include emotional outburst, isolating themselves and they even experience moderate to severe depression.
Social media dependence and addiction is an epidemic that is silently taking over the world without majority of the population being aware of it, an epidemic which is going to kill the humanity, the society and existence of sane human beings. Unless immediate active effective steps are taken to create awareness and prevent the further swelling of the addicted population this world will not be the one for human beings.