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Addiction to Social Media: Are we being programmed!

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By: Dr. Inamul Bashir

Social media addiction refers to a compulsive and excessive use of social media networks  (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Tik Tok, QZone, Skype, LinkedIn, Viber, Pinterest, Telegram, Tinder, Reddit,  and Snapchat) despite knowing the fact that the use of these platforms is having a negative effect on our real life and relationships. No doubt, these social media networks allow us to stay in contact with family and friends, but unfortunately, we spend hours every day updating our status, uploading pictures, commenting on walls, playing Facebook games, reading updates from others and searching for new friends to add.

With the result, our focus becomes the digital world and we become less engaged in the real world of relationships. Those who suffer from this addiction do not always judge what is appropriate or inappropriate to post due to their preoccupation with checking and responding, which leads to a constant engagement in the activity. The default choice for their free time activity is to be on these social media networks.

A social media addict finds it as a convenient way to temporarily soothe the underlying stress created by the problems which he/she encounters in day to day life because one’s attention is always diverted with the use of these social media networks. Almost every addict will start their day with a morning routine of checking and pointlessly scrolling through what they have missed on social media after the long hours of sleep at night.

People can spend hours scrolling mindlessly, reading news and updates that have no meaning at all. They can be a form of entertainment, but in reality, most of the things shared on social media will not do any good to anyone’s life. Social media addicts depend too much on the social media either to kill time, to have entertainment or to satisfy their own negative behavior cravings. And whenever they stop using it, they tend to feel anxiety.

The problem is that without control, social media can overtake and control your life rather than you control them. Most people underestimated how social media can influence and affect their lives until it is too late to notice the effect and to change.

With the introduction of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, people may choose to contact you using those platforms and avoid real physical contact. From a mental health perspective, concerns have been raised about the negative impact of excessive use of social networking sites on the health and wellbeing of users, especially that of young people, who are enthusiastic users of this technology.

A clear sign of how social media becomes part of your life can be seen if you have lost interest in other activities and responsibilities. You choose to scroll your phone instead of going out to exercise. You choose to waste time on Facebook rather than washing the dishes. The more time people spend on social media, the more socially isolated they will be. And this can make you experience less happiness and less satisfaction.

People love to compare with each other especially in social media. Studies have found that most people admit that seeing other people travel and having a great vacation or showing material possessions are envy-inducing. This can make social media the ground for invidious feelings. Social media addict cannot live a life without internet, even for just a few hours. They will feel anxiety and choose to enter places with an internet connection.

What I want to say is that technology is there to help us move forward, it is not created to waste our time and make us less productive. Social media can be a great way to connect with people, but we must not neglect the importance of physical communication with others too. We have become the puppets and slaves of these social networking companies.

We do what the tycoons of these social media networks want us to do. We hear what they want us to hear. We see what they want us to see. We talk what they want us to talk. Even our thoughts are controlled by these tycoons of social media. We act how they want us to act. We are being programmed by these tycoons. We are no more social animals as we were supposed to be. Never let these online social platforms take away our precious time or control our life, we should be the one that controls them as a tool. We need to carefully reschedule when we check social media. Instead of randomly checking for new likes or posts or updates, we can only access it twice a day.

This must be restricted like a digital diet so that our intake is cut down much like a food addict that does not want to eat as much. We need to find alternative ways of communicating, especially using more face-to-face strategies. We need to connect with friends and relatives using phone calls instead of text messaging and get out with friends instead of being on social media. If we want to be happy and satisfied, we must reduce the usage of these social networking sites and instead we must spend our free time with our family, relatives and friends.

The writer is Lecturer in Physics and can be mailed at inamulbashir@rediffmail.com

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