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Guest Column: Social media — addiction or harmless fun?

The other day my morning class got out early, so I decided to go wait outside the door to my next class. When I arrived, there were over 15 students there, waiting outside for their class to start, all looking at their phones as if they were in a trance. I got to thinking, what on earth did my parents do in a situation like this? Did they awkwardly stand there and stare at each other? (OMG! My little sister just got engaged!) No, they said hi and made friends!

What if we lived in a world where people could talk to one another and be friends without the comfort of a phone in their hands or pockets? (Whoa . . . my friend just got roses wrapped in $100 bills.) Yes, phones are a huge luxury, and I love my cell phone, but human interaction is so much more personal. I really believe that social media is taking that interaction away from us.

Though all of these lovely sources of immediate entertainment are fun and enjoyable to have, at what point does checking them constantly make it an addiction? A fellow student said she deleted all apps off of her phone, and within a week, they were all back. (Just got an invite to the rooftop party in SLC. Anyone else going?) I’ve heard similar stories within my family about quitting smoking for a week and going right back, but society clearly calls smoking an addiction. So what’s the difference?

According to CNN News, the first Internet gaming addiction rehabilitation center is opening in the country. (Well, I just looked at over 150 pictures of my friend’s wedding. BEAUTIFUL!) The detox program requires its participants to go 72 hours without any kind of Internet gaming. After the 72 hours, they let you play a few hours here and there. A man in the article was contemplating ending his life due to the 80 hours a week of gaming he’d been involved in.

Clearly, gaming and, by extension, social media has become an addiction and something that people seriously struggle with. (Oh no . . . missionary girlfriend posts again . . .) It’s something that has been noticed as a problem, and people are just now trying to fix it. But where’s the difference between gaming and social media?

If I added up all the hours I was on my phone or computer in a day checking my Facebook and Instagram, it would be well over 20 hours. For goodness’ sake, I’ve been distracted from writing this column over five times with notifications from my social media! (I’ve tried to keep you updated.) It’s in our nature now to constantly stay connected, but it doesn’t have to be ALL the time.

Though there may be a rehabilitation center opening, that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily an addiction. (Must be snowing outside.) Experts say that there is no clear line as to where addiction is drawn, so it’s not necessarily an addiction per se. But addiction is defined in the Merriam-Webster  Dictionary as having an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something.

Sounds to me like our constant need to check our social media is an addiction. (Jacob Mortensen just added me!) It is something that we feel we must have constant knowledge of.

I know that I’m not as into my social media as some people are. There have to be some people out there who are constantly connected, but how healthy is that, really? Social media is meant to be used at appropriate times and circumstances. (Insert super-tired picture in front of laptop here.) Homework done. #journalism #wsu #signpost

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