Being absent from social networks even for short periods leads to classic symptoms of withdrawal , such as the desire to connect online at least three times a day, boredom and mood swings.
This was confirmed by a team of researchers from Austria, led by Stefan Stieger, who investigated the reaction of users of social networks to a period of disconnection . More than 150 participants between 18 and 80 years old, 70% of them women, were instructed not to use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp for seven days.
According to Stieger, from the Department of Psychology and Psychodynamics at Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences ( KL Krems)), almost 60% of the subjects “cheated” and connected for approximately three minutes , because they believed that not using the platforms would mean missing something important.
17% relapsed once, 13% relapsed twice and 29% relapsed more than twice. Users felt peer pressure to return to social networks, because people are expected to interact with their friends in these media. “What we saw were effects similar to classic addictions , ” he confirmed to SciDev.Net .
He also emphasized that the withdrawal symptoms detected in his study may be milder compared to the actual phenomenon. More than a thousand people were invited to participate, but only about 30% were interested. In the end, only 15% assumed the challenge of spending time away from social networks. (You can read: The ‘Z’, the generation that consumes the most social networks )
The “off-line period” influenced the good or bad mood of the participants. ” For people who have problems with the use of their social networks, staying offline is often a good thing ,” Stieger said. The results, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Network , open a new debate on whether or not there is an epidemic of “addiction to social networks.”
“While the findings indicate that participants had problems when they retired from online social networks, I would take precautions when I labeled them as addictions,” said Yalda T. Uhls, PhD, Founder of the Center for Academics and Storytellers at UCLA, and author. of the book Media Moms &
“Addictive behavior usually involves harm to oneself or others , and I’m not sure that boredom or anxiety counts as such. It is interesting to note that the authors found a decrease in both positive and negative affect, demonstrating the complexity of trying to understand how these media affect us, “he told SciDev.Net .
However, Catherice Price, an educational and health consultant and author of the book “How to Break Your Phone,” is not surprised that researchers observed abstinence-like symptoms among people they had been asked to abstain from. social networks. (Read also: The five best cities to do science )
“Like slot machines, social media applications are deliberately designed to stimulate the release of dopamine , which is a brain chemical that plays a key role in the formation of habits and addictions,” he told SciDev.Net .
“Personally, I agree with that investigation,” said Irving Washington, CEO of Online News Association, the leading organization of digital journalists. He recently took a week’s vacation and publicly pledged to be disconnected during that period.
“Yes, I experienced withdrawal symptoms and, in fact, while I fulfilled my goal, I think I changed one habit for another and sent text messages more frequently to share the holidays, since” technically “did not break the rule of the networks social. But yes, I would say that I was calmer. I knew I had to return, so there was no expectation that he would take me away, but my future goal is to keep an eye on social networks, “he confessed to SciDev.Net .
According to the series of global digital reports of 2018 of Hootsuite and We Are Social, Central and South Asia recorded the fastest growth of people using social networks (90 and 33% respectively). In Latin America, 57% of its inhabitants use social networks.
There are three Latin American countries: Brazil, second with three hours and 39 minutes; Argentina, in the fifth place with three hours and nine minutes, and Mexico in the seventh place with three hours and seven minutes. The Philippines ranks first in the world with an average use of almost four hours per person.
Monica Peart, director of forecasts of the company Emarketer, confirmed to SciDev.Net that Facebook is the largest social network of Latin America to, an estimated 284.5 million users in 2018, but its growth is stagnating and increase in single digits over the next five years, while Instagram continue to grow. It is expected that this network will have grown by 18.4% (125.9 million users) throughout 2018.