Social Networking Addiction a Real Thing

Social networking is the generally accepted term for the use of a number of popular websites that facilitate virtual social interactions for anyone who has access to a computer, smartphone or Internet-equipped tablet. Involvement in this form of communication is an increasingly common fact of life in the 21st century. In a study scheduled for publication in 2014 in the journal Addiction, researchers from three U.S. institutions used a project involving American college students to determine if excessive use of social networking sites might qualify for recognition as a form of non-substance-based behavioral addiction.

Social Networking Statistics

In late 2013 and early 2014, the well-regarded Pew Research Institute released a series of reports on the popularity and demographics of social networking among U.S. adults. The data gathered for these reports indicates that 74 percent of American adults who use the Internet access at least one social networking site. Women are slightly more likely to visit such a site than men. In terms of age, the highest social networking participation occurs among younger adults under the age of 30, although a fairly comparable rate of participation also occurs among adults between the ages of 30 and 49. Americans of all educational backgrounds have roughly equal chances of using a social media site. In terms of income, the highest rates of use occur among people who make under $30,000 a year and people who make at least $75,000 a year. In descending order, the most popular social networking sites are Facebook (by a wide margin), LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.

Behavioral Addiction

A person with a behavioral addiction has developed a recurring, dysfunctional relationship to a pleasurable activity that doesn’t cause harm under typical circumstances. Common indications of such a relationship include an inability to limit the amount of time spent on the activity in question, use of the activity as a method for avoiding unwanted mental/emotional states, mental preoccupation with the activity while doing other things, prioritization of the activity over one’s personal life or other key aspects of a sustainable daily routine and the onset of a withdrawal-like state when the activity is not available. Until recently, mental health professionals in the U.S. frequently did not view these problems as addiction-related factors. However, a large body of scientific research and doctors’ clinical reports has established a clear, strong connection between these behavioral symptoms and some of the main symptoms associated with substance addiction. The American Psychiatric Association now officially acknowledges behavioral addiction as a group of conditions known as addictive disorders.

Social Networking Addiction?

In the study scheduled for publication in Addiction, researchers from the State University of New York at Albany, Children’s Hospital of Boston and the University of the Sciences used an examination of 253 undergraduate college students to explore the potential link between excessive social networking participation and diagnosable behavioral addiction. The students included in the study were chosen to reflect the demographic backgrounds (age, gender, racial/ethnic ancestry, etc.) of all American college enrollees. The researchers used a screening tool called the Young Internet Addiction Test to assess the presence of addictive behavior in these individuals. They also used modified versions of some of the screening tools commonly used in the U.S. to identify possible cases of alcohol abuse/addiction, substance abuse/addiction and significant emotional problems.

The researchers concluded that 9.7 percent of the study participants had symptoms that indicated the presence of an addictive relationship with social networking. They also concluded that three factors are statistically associated with increased chances of falling into a potentially addictive pattern of behavior: having a high score on the Young Internet Addiction Test, having alcohol screening results that indicate the presence of diagnosable alcohol abuse/alcoholism and having a relatively high amount of difficulty maintaining emotional control.

Overall, the study’s authors concluded that it’s possible to develop a behavioral addiction to social networking. They also concluded that the modified alcohol and drug screening tools they used during their project adequately help identify young adults who may have symptoms of such an addiction. Finally, the authors believe that an addictive pattern of social networking involvement appears to develop as part of a larger complex of problems that includes a general high-risk profile for behavioral addiction, a general high-risk profile for substance addiction and underdeveloped emotional control capabilities.

Posted on December 23rd, 2014
Posted in Addiction

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