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We should fear social media addiction?

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Katherine Boyle (@KTmBoyle) of the Washington Post reports that for many wanting to quit, they’ll find social media is an addiction.

Per Larry Rosen (@DrLarryRosen) author of “iDisorder” and professor of psychology at California State,

Anxiety is driving people to want to give it up and then to not be able to. Some know they’re too wrapped up in it but if they give it up even for an hour, they’re afraid they’ll miss out on something.

Boyle reports that researchers in Norway have even made the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale to decipher just how addicted people can become.

Not so fast says Rosen, social media is not an addiction, it’s an obsession.

An addiction is when you do something to gain pleasure, (such as smoking) cigarettes or playing games. We’re not doing this to get pleasure; we’re doing it reduce our anxiety. If something good is there, then there’s a rush of pleasure.

Judith Donath (@judithd), a faculty fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, brings some sanity to the discussion. Per Doyle, Donath is among those that view media reports on social media addiction as overblown.

For one, it is a social thing. There’s a lot of people who say it has enhanced their ability to stay in touch with people. Some people take it too far, but as a society, we often look down on things that are purely social. And that’s not healthy.

I just watched the Packers for the 16th time this year. Though I’ll confess for one game the coverage was a bit sketchy watching on an iPad while on a plane. Could I stop watching the Packers? Probably not.

Am I addicted? Or maybe just obsessed as Rosen warns?

As Doyle says,

America wastes time on social media, but we used to waste time watching marathons of “The Golden Girls.” Which is worse? And unlike sugary, carbonated beverages, the government sees no need to regulate our social media intake.

Some researchers recommend reducing social media usage, but acknowledge giving it up entirely is becoming virtually impossible.

Why would we warn people to give up social media? Or even reduce its use.

More than just for pleasure, social media is the means by which a growing segment of people communicate, receive news and information, conduct business, and build relationships.

My guess is that 15 or 20 years ago when the personal computer was becoming more prevalent there were studies and articles warning of addiction to computers. We’ve survived having a computer at every work station in America — heck we could not function as a society without them.

Sure, I get concerned when my kids (or even I) are tweeting or using Facebook while out to dinner. But we’re learning what’s socially acceptable.

Let’s not call social media an addiction or label people that cannot reduce its use as obsessed so as to hand another argument to those trying to escape using something as critical as a telephone. Social media is a very big deal and it’s going to be used by an increasing number of people for an increasing amount of their time.

There is much more to be gained as a society by more people using social media for more of their time than warning people that they need to cut back on its use.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Antanith.