Social Media Magnifies Internet Addiction

By Rhea, Dave | THE JOURNAL RECORD, November 24, 2009 | Go to article overview

Social Media Magnifies Internet Addiction


Rhea, Dave, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Addiction is a term that conjures up sordid images, but that is not always an accurate characterization. People from all walks of life, from the proverbial video gamer in his mother's basement to the C-class executive in the corner office, suffer from a compulsion that has nothing to do with drugs or derangement. Their affliction is an impulse to engage online forms of information and entertainment.

Internet addiction is widely listed as one of the 10 most common addictions. Until recently, nothing has aggravated this compulsion to be digitally engaged like social media. Facebook and Twitter, the two fastest-growing social media platforms, allow users to stay virtually connected to "friends" and "followers" all day, every day.

But what is the draw? Why do people feel compelled to keep their head buried in their screened devices so much and so often? Is it a benign way of keeping up with friends? Could it be a symptom of some emotional deficit in one's life? Or could it, in itself, be a mental disorder?

"Most people who find a deep satisfaction and pleasure in using Twitter, for example, probably have a deep psychological need that is not being met in normal, everyday life," said licensed psychologist Dr. Melvyn Preisz. "The unfortunate reality is that our society is starving for genuine communion and genuine intimacy and communication."

Preisz, a 44-year tenured professor of psychology at Oklahoma City University and an owner of Preisz-McMillin Clinic in northern Oklahoma City, said that broad use of social media sites has skyrocketed in the last year, and with such adaptation comes a new set of challenges.

"Technically it is called Internet addiction disorder, abbreviated IAD," he said. "It is a subject of new research and debate."

With a list of signs of Internet addiction that sound like a Jeff Foxworthy comedy routine, Preisz pointed out a series of red flags.

"If you hide the amount of time you spend in the Internet like a bottle of booze, that may be a sign of Internet addiction," he said, "because secrecy is a sure sign of Internet addiction.

"If you use your computer to escape problems or to avoid reality, you could be an Internet addict," he added.

Dr. David Greenfield, director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, author of Virtual Addiction and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, has been studying Internet and technology addiction since the mid-'90s, when usage was mainly based on gambling, video gaming and pornography. …

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