Expert talks psychology behind social media addiction

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JACKSON, Tenn. — If you own a smartphone, social media is probably part of your daily routine — but is it too consuming? Reports say social networking eats up at least three hours a day for the average American user. “It’s just so popular. It’s such fun,” Dr. Joanne Stephenson said. “I think it took over initially because it’s so convenient.” Stephenson is a psychology professor at Union University and said it is so hard to unplug from social media such as Facebook and Twitter because it is not just convenient — it is also fun, which is why millions of people cannot get enough. “I like it. I’d be upset if it was gone,” Melda Collins said. And they might not even be aware they are addicted. “So many people are addicted to it, and I thought ‘not me’ until our power went out for three hours and I was disconnected from the outside world,” Stephenson said. Numerous reports estimate that 18- to 34-year-olds spend nearly four hours a day on social media, but that is just an average. Some admit to spending even more than that. “I probably run my battery down about three times a day,” Collins said. “Facebook is never off on my phone. I’m just constantly clicking back on it.” Collins is just one of the many admitting to their social media addiction. “I’m probably addicted because I’m on it sometimes three or four hours a day,” Geraldine Williamson said. “I am addicted to Facebook,” Kelly Collins said. “Apps — any apps, really, but Facebook in general.” “Well, I check my email and my Facebook before I start my day,” Vickie Anderson said. Stephenson said one downside to social media that is concerning is people are losing empathy. “Today, look at all the violence we see among kids,” Stephenson said. “No empathy. Why? Because you get that from face-to-face interactions with people.” She said while social skills have changed, she cannot say if the good outweighs the bad or vice-versa. “The bad can be so bad. I think the good is fabulous. It has opened worlds to us,” Stephenson said. Stephenson said the addiction stems from people’s curiosity and the instantaneous positive feedback social media can provide.

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