Posted by drmarkgriffiths
(Please note: The following blog was co-written with Dr. Daria Kuss)
In the present day and age, individuals have come to live increasingly mediated lives. Nowadays, social networking does not necessarily refer to what we do, but who we are and how we relate to one another. Social networking can arguably be considered a way of being and relating, and is supported by empirical research. A younger generation of scholars has grown up in a world that has been reliant on technology as integral part of their lives, making it impossible to imagine life without being connected. This has been referred to as an ‘always on’ lifestyle. As Dr. Danah Boyd has asserted “It’s no longer about on or off really. It’s about living in a world where being networked to people and information wherever and whenever you need it is just assumed”.
This has two important implications. First, being ‘on’ has become the status quo. Second, there appears to be an inherent understanding or requirement in today’s technology loving culture that one needs to engage in online social networking in order not to miss out, to stay up to date, and to connect. Boyd herself refers to needing to go on a “digital sabbatical” in order not be on, to take a vacation from connecting, with the caveat that this means still engaging with social media, but deciding which messages to respond to.
In addition to this, teenagers particularly appear to have subscribed to the cultural norm of continual online networking. They create virtual spaces which serve their need to belong, as there appear to be increasingly limited options of analogous physical spaces due to parents’ safety concerns. Being online is viewed as safer than roaming the streets and parents often assume using technology in the home is normal and healthy, as stated by a psychotherapist treating adolescents presenting with the problem of Internet addiction: “Use of digital media is the culture of the household and kids are growing up that way more and more” (quote taken from our 2015 book Internet Addiction in Psychotherapy).
Interestingly, recent research by Winston Teo and his colleagues has demonstrated that sharing information on social media increases life satisfaction and loneliness for younger adult users, whereas the opposite was true for older adult users, suggesting that social media use and social networking are used and perceived very differently across generations. This has implications for social networking addiction because the context of excessive social networking is critical in defining someone as an addict, and habitual use by teenagers might be pathologized using current screening instruments when in fact the activity – while excessive – does not result in significant detriment to the individual’s life.
SNS use is also driven by a number of other motivations. From a ‘uses and gratifications’ perspective, these include information seeking (i.e., searching for specific information using SNS), identity formation (i.e., as a means of presenting oneself online, often more favorably than offline) and entertainment (i.e., for the purpose of experiencing fun and pleasure). In addition to this, there are the motivations such as voyeurism and cyberstalking (see ‘Further reading’ below) that could have potentially detrimental impacts on individuals’ health and wellbeing as well as their relationships.
It has also been claimed that social networking meets basic human needs as initially described in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. According to this theory, social networking meets the needs of safety, association, estimation, and self-realization. Safety needs are met by social networking being customizable with regards to privacy, allowing the users to control who to share information with. Associative needs are fulfilled through the connecting function of SNSs, allowing users to ‘friend’ and ‘follow’ like-minded individuals. The need to estimate is met by users being able to ‘gather’ friends and ‘likes’, and compare oneself to others, and is therefore related to Maslow’s need of esteem. Finally, the need for self-realization, the highest attainable goal that only a small minority of individuals are able to achieve, can be reached by presenting oneself in a way one wants to present oneself, and by supporting ‘friends’ on those SNSs who require help.
Consequently, social networking taps into very fundamental human needs by offering the possibilities of social support and self-expression. This may offer an explanation for the popularity of and relatively high engagement with SNSs in today’s society. However, the downside is that high engagement and being always “on” or engaged with technology has been considered problematic and potentially addictive in the past but if being ‘always on’ can be considered the status quo and most individuals are ‘on’ most of the time, where does this leave problematic use or addiction?
- (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
Barker, V. (2009). Older adolescents’ motivations for social network site use: The influence of gender, group identity, and collective self-esteem. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 12, 209-213.
Boyd, D. (2012). Participating in the always-on lifestyle. In M. Mandiberg (Ed.), The Social Media Reader. New York: New York University Press.
Boyd, D. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. Yale: Yale University Press.
Dressing, H., Bailer, J., Anders, A., Wagner, H., & Gallas, C. (2014). Cyberstalking in a large sample of social network users: Prevalence, characteristics, and impact upon victims. Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, 17, 61-67.
Griffiths, M.D. (2013) Social networking addiction: Emerging themes and issues. Journal of Addiction Research and Therapy, 4: e118. doi: 10.4172/2155-6105.1000e118.
Griffiths, M.D. & Kuss, D.J. (2011). Adolescent social networking: Should parents and teachers be worried? Education and Health, 29, 23-25.
Griffiths, M.D., Kuss, D.J. & Demetrovics, Z. (2014). Social networking addiction: An overview of preliminary findings. In K. Rosenberg & L. Feder (Eds.), Behavioral Addictions: Criteria, Evidence and Treatment (pp.119-141). New York: Elsevier.
Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Online social networking and addiction: A literature review of empirical research. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8, 3528-3552.
Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015) Internet addiction in psychotherapy. London: Palgrave: London.
Maslow, A.H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370-396.
Riva, G., Wiederhold, B. K., & Cipresso, P. (2016). Psychology of social media: From technology to identity. In G. Riva, B. K. Wiederhold & P. Cipresso (Eds.), The psychology of social Networking: Personal experience in online communities (pp. 1-11). Warsaw, Poland: De Gruyter Open.
Teo, W. J. S., & Lee, C. S. (2016). Sharing brings happiness? Effects of sharing in social media among adult users. In A. Morishima, A. Rauber & C. L. Liew (Eds.), Digital Libraries: Knowledge, Information, and Data in an Open Access Society: 18th International Conference on Asia-Pacific Digital Libraries, ICADL 2016, Tsukuba, Japan, December 7–9, 2016, Proceedings (pp. 351-365). Cham: Springer International Publishing.
Zhao, S.Y., Grasmuck, S., & Martin, J. (2008). Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 24, 1816-1836.
Tags: Always on culture, Digital detox, Digital sabbatical, Excessive social media use, Facebook addiction, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Problematic social media use, Problematic social networking, Screenagers, Self-expression, Social media use, Social networking, Social networking addiction