GOING COLD TURKEY ...from Social Networks; Billions of People Log on to Social Media Sites Every Day. for Many It Is Just One Part of a Normal Lifestyle but for Others It Can Become an Unhealthy Addiction
Byline: Words: JULIE COOK
Social networks have revolutionised how we connect with others. We can now be 'friends' with people from all over the world; people we'd probably never meet in real life - all from the comfort of our sofas.
We can meet friends whether we're wearing our make-up or not, if we feel at our best or ill - even in our pyjamas.
Social networks are huge businesses. Over a billion people use Facebook and other sites such as Bebo, Instagram and Twitter are popular sites for making new friends.
Some people have a handful of online 'friends', others have thousands. Most of us can dip in and out of social networks. We can check out what old school friends have got up to online and we can join groups with friends that share our interests.
And we still keep in contact with friends in the real world, face to face.
But what about the people who no longer do that? What if social networks begin to replace their real friends?
It's an addiction that can lead to problems. But is it an addiction you could give up? Tyler Guest, 18, admits she was addicted to social network sites. She used to spend hours every day checking Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. At its worst, she was checking the sites for eight hours a day - and not just at home, she'd use her mobile to access the sites while on the move.
Tyler says, 'I was obsessed with checking other people's statuses on social media and adding my own. I had over 1,200 friends - many of whom I didn't even really know. I felt I had nothing else to do and was often bored during the day. So I'd go online to fill the time.' Tyler carried on this way for months. But then it started causing problems with her boyfriend Ell, 21.
'We started arguing. He wondered why I was online so much. He even accused me of cheating on him. I tried to assure him I wasn't - I just loved looking at other people's home pages. But he was convinced I was up to something - after all, I was always online.' By October last year, Tyler was spending most of her day on Facebook.
She says, 'I did see friends but it wasn't very often. I was addicted.' It might sound flippant to use the word 'addiction' in relation to social networks. But psychologists at the University of Bergen, Norway, did a study in which they found some participants really did show clear signs of 'Facebook addiction'.
The signs were similar to those addicted to drugs, alcohol or other substances.
It showed that young people were most likely to become addicted and women more so than men.* The study found that people who were anxious, socially insecure or shy were more likely to be 'heavy users' yet extrovert people could also be addicted.
Tyler was one of the lucky ones to realise she had a problem.
She says, 'In October last year I realised something - real life was on the outside, not on a computer. So I made a huge decision.' She deleted all her social networks - and she has not gone back.
Surprisingly going 'cold turkey' left Tyler feeling liberated.
'I thought I would find it difficult.
But it was actually quite easy once I started. At first I worried I would have nothing to do but I filled my time seeing my boyfriend, friends and going to the gym.' Tyler says that although she felt her 'real' life improve, she did lose out on her online friends.
'Because I got rid of social networks, I lost contact with some friends. I now don't speak to them because of it. But the friends I have kept, the 'real' ones - I see much more often.' Tyler says she does lament her online social life sometimes. …