Communications boon has turned into addiction bane
PETALING JAYA: Social media has been a boon as people stay indoors to keep a virulent infection at bay. Unfortunately, many people who otherwise would have little use for the medium have become hooked on it. Like a pandemic, it has taken over their lives.
Granted, addictive social media use is not new.
Since the emergence of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other similar platforms, and easy access to such media through a smartphone, over-extensive use of social media has been a problem.
The lockdown necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic since early last year has only exacerbated it.
According to research by eMarketer and Inside Intelligence, TikTok has seen an additional 37.3 million users in the United States alone since the pandemic began. That is a large chunk of the average of 80 million active users monthly in the country.
The increased use of social media does not come as a surprise to communications and media experts.
International Islamic University Malaysia assistant professor Dr Shafizan Mohamed said it serves as a coping mechanism as people are forced to stay indoors.
“Humans are social beings. We crave contact with others. When this need cannot be fulfilled in the real world, we turn to online platforms such as Twitter and TikTok,” she told theSun.
The term “addiction” refers as much to one’s ability to properly manage the usage of social media as it does to the amount of time spent on it, she added.
“Some people are constantly on social media because their job requires it. If he logs out once his work is done, then it cannot be categorised as an addiction,” Shafizan explained.
She said addiction to social media is when it takes over one’s life and determines the way he lives.
Shafizan pointed out that everyone needs assurance, information and comfort now more than ever, and social media has become the main conduit to fulfil such needs.
“However, anything used excessively is never good, for any age group. Excessive screen time can affect us mentally, emotionally and physically.
“When you dwell too long in a world that’s not entirely real, it gets easier to fall into that rabbit hole filled with depression, anxiety and fear of missing out,” she added.
She said the rule is to ensure that time spent on social media does not exceed time on face-to-face communication with family or hobbies that can be engaged offline.
“Social media is just a medium to connect people. While it may give us the impression that it will help fill the void of loneliness, it cannot do so.”
Media expert Adlene Aris said the risk of addiction to social media varies with age.
According to the lecturer at the Faculty of Applied Communications at Multimedia University, younger people usually have more time to spend on social media, making them more vulnerable to addiction.
Another cause of addition is the increased dependence on social media to get the latest news and information on the Covid-19 pandemic and other current happenings.
“The more time an individual spends on the internet, the more likely he is to develop an addiction, as one click leads to another,” she said.
Adlene also pointed out that individuals who spend a lot of time on social media out of habit or even due to addictive behaviour may find it difficult to detach themselves from it.
According to her, this because of a lack of face-to-face communication and activities outside the house.
“Hopefully, once the lockdown is lifted and travel bans are no longer in place, all of us can disengage from social media to start engaging with more meaningful communications offline,” she added.
Originally published by SHIVANI SUPRAMANI Last updated on 24 JUN 2021 / 08:05 H