Get connected: Another brief look at social networking addiction
Posted by drmarkgriffiths
(Please note: The following blog was co-written with Dr. Daria Kuss)
There is a growing scientific evidence base to suggest excessive SNS use may lead to symptoms traditionally associated with substance-related addictions. These symptoms have been described as salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, relapse, and conflict with regards to behavioural addictions, and were validated in the context of the Internet addiction components model in a study I co-wrote with Dr. Daria Kuss and colleagues in a 2014 issue of the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction (see ‘Further reading’ below)
For a small minority of individuals, their use of social networking sites may become the single most important activity that they engage in, leading to a preoccupation with SNS use (salience). The activities on these sites are then being used in order to induce mood alterations, pleasurable feelings or a numbing effect (mood modification). Increased amounts of time and energy are required to be put into engaging with SNS activities in order to achieve the same feelings and state of mind that occurred in the initial phases of usage (tolerance). When SNS use is discontinued, addicted individuals will experience negative psychological and sometimes physiological symptoms (withdrawal), often leading to a reinstatement of the problematic behaviour (relapse). Problems arise as a consequence of the engagement in the problematic behaviour, leading to intrapsychic (conflicts within the individual often including a subjective loss of control) and interpersonal conflicts (i.e., problems with the immediate social environment including relationship problems and work and/or education being compromised).
Whilst referring to an ‘addiction’ terminology in this blog it needs to be noted that there is obviously a lot of controversy within the research field concerning both the possible over-pathologising of everyday life as well as the most appropriate term for the phenomenon. On the one hand, current behavioural addiction research tends to be correlational and confirmatory in nature and is often based on population studies rather than clinical samples in which psychological impairments are observed. On the other hand, much of my own research does not discriminate between the label addiction, compulsion, problematic SNS use, or other similar labels used because these terms are being used interchangeably by most authors in the field. Nevertheless, when referring to ‘addiction’, the I refer to the presence of the above stated criteria, as these appear to hold across both substance-related as well as behavioural addictions and indicate the requirement of significant impairment and distress on behalf of the individual experiencing it in order to qualify for using clinical terminology such as the ‘addiction’ label.
The question then arises as what it is that individuals become addicted to. Is it the technology or is it more what the technology allows them to do? I have constantly argued in many of my papers that the technology is but a medium or a tool that allows individuals to engage in particular behaviours, such as social networking and gaming, rather than being addictive per se. This view is supported by media scholars such as Dr. Danah Boyd: “To an outsider, wanting to be always-on may seem pathological. All too often it’s labelled an addiction. The assumption is that we’re addicted to the technology. The technology doesn’t matter. It’s all about the people and information”. Following this thinking, one could claim that it is not an addiction to the technology, but to connecting with people, and the good feelings that ‘likes’ and positive comments of appreciation can produce. Given that connection is the key function of social networking sites, it appears that ‘social networking addiction’ may be considered an appropriate denomination of this potential mental health problem.
There are a numbers of models which offer explanations as to the development of SNS addiction. For instance, in the cognitive-behavioural model forwarded by Ofir Turel and Alexander Serenko, excessive social networking is the consequence of maladaptive cognitions and is exacerbated through a number of external issues, resulting in addictive use. The social skill model suggests individuals use SNSs excessively as a consequence of low self-presentation skills and preference for online social interaction over face-to-face communication, resulting in addictive SNS use. With respect to the socio-cognitive model, excessive social networking develops as a consequence of positive outcome expectations, Internet self-efficacy, and limited Internet self-regulation, leading to addictive SNS use.
It has furthermore been suggested that SNS use may become problematic when individuals use it in order to cope with everyday problems and stressors, including loneliness and depression. More specifically, it has been contended that excessive SNS users find it difficult to communicate face-to-face, and social media use offers a variety of immediate rewards, such as self-efficacy and satisfaction, resulting in continued and increased use, with the consequence of exacerbating problems, including neglecting offline relationships, and problems in professional contexts. The resultant depressed moods are then dealt with by continued engagement in SNSs, leading to a vicious cycle of addiction.
Cross-cultural research by Artemis Tsitsika and colleagues (published in 2014 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health) comprised 10,930 adolescents from six European countries (Greece, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands, Romania and Iceland). Findings showed that using SNS for two or more hours a day was related to internalizing problems, and decreased academic performance and activity. A study by Chong-wen Wang and colleagues (published in a 2015 issue of Addictive Behaviors) surveyed a sample of 920 secondary school students in China and indicated neuroticism and extraversion predicted SNS addiction, clearly differentiating individuals who experience problems as a consequence of their excessive SNS use from those individuals who used games or the Internet in general excessively, further contributing to the contention that SNS addiction appears to be a behavioural problem separate from the more commonly researched gaming addiction. In a study using a relatively small representative sample of the Belgian population (N=1000), a study by Rozane De Cock and colleagues (published in a 2014 issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking) suggested 6.5% were using SNSs compulsively, with this group having lower scores on measures of emotional stability and agreeableness, conscientiousness, perceived control and self-esteem, and higher scores on loneliness and depressive feelings.
The way forward in the emerging research field of social networking addiction requires the establishment of consensual nosological precision, so that both researchers and clinical practitioners can work together and establish productive communication between the involved parties that enable reliable and valid assessments of SNS addiction and associated behaviors (e.g., problematic mobile phone use), and the development of targeted and specific treatment approaches to ameliorate the negative consequences of such disorders.
- (Please note: Material for this blog was taken from the following paper: Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2017). Social networking sites and addiction: Ten lessons learned. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14, 311; doi:10.3390/ijerph14030311)
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Andreassen, C. S. (2015). Online social network site addiction: A comprehensive review. Current Addiction Reports, 2(2), 175-184.
Billieux, J.; Schimmenti, A.; Khazaal, Y.; Maurage, P.; Heeren, A. Are we overpathologizing everyday life? A tenable blueprint for behavioral addiction research. Journal of Behavioral Addictions 2015, 4, 119-123.
Boyd, D. (2012). Participating in the always-on lifestyle. In M. Mandiberg (Ed.), The Social Media Reader. New York: New York University Press.
De Cock, R., Vangeel, J., Klein, A., Minotte, P., Rosas, O., & Meerkerk, G.J. (2014). Compulsive use of social networking sites in Belgium: Prevalence, profile, and the role of attitude toward work and school. CyberPsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 17, 166-171.
Griffiths, M. D. (2005). A “components” model of addiction within a biopsychosocial framework. Journal of Substance Use, 10(4), 191-197.
Kardefelt-Winther, D., Heeren, A., Schimmenti, A., van Rooij, A., Maurage, P., Carras, M., Edman, J., Blaszczynski, A., Khazaal, Y., & Billieux, J. (2017). How can we conceptualize behavioural addiction without pathologizing common behaviours? Addiction, 15, 13763.
Kuss, D. J., & Griffiths, M. D. (2012). Internet gaming addiction: A systematic review of empirical research. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 10(2), 278-296.
Kuss, D. J., Shorter, G. W., van Rooij, A. J., Griffiths, M. D., & Schoenmakers, T. (2014). Assessing Internet addiction using the parsimonious Internet addiction components model – A preliminary study. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 12(3), 351-366.
Tsitsika, A.K., Tzavela, E.C., Janikian, M., Ólafsson, K., Iordache, A., Schoenmakers, T.M., Tzavara, C., & Richardson, C. (2014). Online social networking in adolescence: Patterns of use in six European countries and links with psychosocial functioning. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55, 141-147.
Turel, O., & Serenko, A. (2012). The benefits and dangers of enjoyment with social networking websites. European Journal of Information Systems, 21(5), 512-528.
Wang, C.-W., Ho, R.T.H., Chan, C.L.W., & Tse, S. (2015). Exploring personality characteristics of Chinese adolescents with internet-related addictive behaviors: Trait differences for gaming addiction and social networking addiction. Addictive Behaviors, 42, 32-35.
About drmarkgriffithsProfessor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 680 research papers, five books, over 150 book chapters, and over 1500 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.
Posted on June 20, 2017, in Addiction, Adolescence, Compulsion, Cyberpsychology, Gender differences, I.T., Internet addiction, Online addictions, Psychology, Social Networking, Technological addiction, Technology and tagged Facebook addiction, Fear of missing out, FOMO, Internet addiction, Maladaptive social networking, No, No mobile phone phobia, Nomophobia, Problematic internet use, Problematic social networking, Ringxiety, Social networking addiction, Social networking psychology. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.