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Can Social Media Be a Drug?

You wake up in the morning, or get home from school or work. What is the first thing you do? Some people would change into a more comfortable attire after a long day, others would roll over and hit the snooze button for the third or fourth time.

Question: How close is your cell phone or laptop when you are doing these things?

If you are a teen, young adult, or just really like the internet, chances are your phone or laptop is not more than a few steps away from you. Better yet, you may be checking your Facebook news feed or updating your Twitter status within a few minutes of waking up or arriving home. You may be tweeting or sharing a link on Facebook right now. No judgment here. I admit it, I do it too.

What if someone told you to take a break from the internet or your cell phone for one day? What would happen? What would you do?

In a 2011 article from The Telegraph, 125 students from 12 universities around the world went an entire day without computers, mobile phones, iPods, television, radio, and newspapers, in an experiment researchers called, “Unplugged.”

According to the author Richard Gray, “They [researchers] found that the participants began to develop symptoms typically seen in smokers attempting to give up. Some of those taking part said they felt like they were undergoing ‘cold turkey’ to break a hard drug habit, while others said it felt like going on a diet.”

In a February 2012 article by Zach Epstein, a writer for Boy Genius Report, Twitter and Facebook may be harder habits to beat than cigarettes and alcohol.

The social media generation is currently facing a condition called Information Deprivation Disorder. Members of this generation who are glued to their phones and to the internet and may be in denial when they read this.

Yet, think of the amount of pictures we take per day to post on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, or the countless times we feel the need to tell the ones we know on Facebook, or ones we do not know on Twitter about every thought that runs through our heads (without a filter sometimes) or every minute of our day.

Last Thursday, I experienced an internet shortage in my neighborhood, and went almost 12 hours without checking my email, Facebook, or Twitter. The following day, I checked everything and I realized I missed a lot. I missed invitations to events, important emails went unanswered for a whole day; I felt like I was out of the loop.

Then it hit me: how, why, and when did we become so dependent on social media and why is it so addictive?

I remember coming across a car commercial last year where a young woman compares the lives of her parents to her own. Her parents had 19 friends on Facebook and went hiking while she spent most of her day in front of a laptop. Towards the end of the commercial, the young woman looks into the camera and says, “This is living.”

There are few moments where I am stuck between laughing or remaining speechless. This was one of those moments.

All good comes with the bad, and this is the case with social media. Whether or not we are full-fledged Facebook and Twitter addicts, or well on our way to being one, the key thing here is moderation.

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