Is Social Media a Disease?

Is social media a disease? I’m not the first person to ask or answer this question. When I googled it, there were over 58 million results. Like everyone else, I just looked at those on Page One. Two articles in The Huffington Post were at the top of the list.

Social media as a disease now has a name. It’s Social Media Anxiety Disorder (SMAD). According to an article on ePain Assist, What is Social Media Anxiety Disorder? there are several symptoms to look for:

  • Interrupting a conversation to share the latest comment on Facebook
  • Avoiding real conversations to keep up with Tweets on Twitter
  • Checking social media to see how many comments you’ve received
  • Adding strangers to your social media accounts
  • Spending 8 hours or more on social media
  • Feeling an attachment to your phone or computer
  • A tendency to get anxious when comments or pictures are not posted in the right manner
  • Constantly checking the number of followers on Twitter

I suppose those are symptoms of advanced SMAD, but I think a lot of people are addicted to social media but don’t know it. I have come to that conclusion by observation. Wherever I go, I see couples and people sitting in groups. They completely ignore each other as they stare at their phones.

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The photo above captures the demographic fairly well. It seems like younger people are more addicted to social media than older people. On more than one occasions I’ve observed young couples and groups doing what the girls in the photo are doing. At the same time, I’ve seen older tourists talking to each other or, if someone is alone, they might read a book. It’s not a hard and fast rule, though. I’ve seen older people staring at their phones with expressions of deep concentration or anxiety on their faces.

I live in a tourist town, so it kind of amazes me that people would come all the way from Europe, Australia or America just to stare at their phones. Isn’t travel supposed to be about experiencing the culture and exploring the sites? Okay, they take photos, but the first thing they do after they take the photos is share them on social media.

I have to admit I almost became addicted to Facebook. It was an easy addiction to break. First I deleted Facebook from my phone. Once the temptation was gone, I became quite content to read a book or watch the passing traffic over coffee. It was a relief not to be tempted to scroll through Facebook.

At home, I limit my Facebook time to when I’m not working and now I’m timing myself. It’s so easy to keep scrolling through Facebook posts. I find it both tiring and anxiety-promoting. There is so much bad news today and everyone has an opinion about it. We’re either supposed to hate Russia or be worried because the media is trying to make us hate Russia. I counted 10 posts about Donald Trump after scrolling for just 30 seconds. You have to worry when the President of the United States is addicted to Twitter.

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You also have to worry when Facebook or Twitter become an obsession and your first source of news. We all choose followers according to our prejudices. Just for fun, I follow a few people who are Trump fans. I want to see him through their eyes.

Is Social Media a Disease?

Yes, I think social media is a disease. I have succumbed to it, but I’m taking steps to limit my time on social media. Removing Facebook from my phone was a great first step. Limiting my time on Facebook was another step forward. I don’t want to look back on my life and think that I didn’t spend my time doing more productive things. Imagine spending your whole life living in a virtual reality when the real world is all around you? Imagine wasting eight hours a day on social media when you could be creating something?

Instead of scrolling through Facebook, I’m spending more time blogging and editing my book. I don’t expect my book to sell, but it’s a creative endeavor. When I’m not doing that, I’m going out of my way to read more. Books require concentration and reading a good book is more enriching than scrolling through short Facebook or Twitter posts. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t see anything healthy about spending my life on social media.