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Problematic social media use, also known as social media addiction, is a proposed form of psychological or behavioral dependence on social media platforms, similar to gaming disorder and other forms of digital media overuse. Generally, is it defined as problematic, compulsive use of social media platforms that result in significant impairment of an individual’s function in their life over a prolonged period of time. This and other relationships between digital media use and mental health have been considerably researched, debated, and discussed among experts in various disciplines, and have generated controversy in medical, scientific, and technological communities. Such disorders can be diagnosed when an individual engages in online activities at the cost of fulfilling daily responsibilities without regard for the negative consequences. When looking into these consequences, it makes one wonder if high internet addiction takes any psychological or any physiological toll on someone with this dependency.
Before we look into the effects of internet addiction, we must look into the basis of research in internet addiction. Internet addiction can go by many names such as problematic internet use, internet dependency, pathological internet use, and internet addiction. When studying internet addiction, researchers focus on three main aspects of addiction based on intensity and progress of the addiction; intrusion, escaping reality, and attachment (Kim, J., & Haridakis, P., 2008). In prior research, many researchers have found both positive and negative effects of excessive internet usage. Some positive effects can include providing access to diverse information, such as health or education, lead to psychological well-being, and widen users’ social circles. However, there can also be some negative effects caused by the isolating platform that can lead to loneliness, less social interaction with family members and friends, and clinical depression (Kim, J., & Haridakis, P., 2008). Once we look into the effects of high internet usage we must ask, what makes addicts become so dependant on the internet? Some answers to this question could be because of boosted self-esteem and an increased sense of self-control in their lives that they would not get in their ordinary interactions (Kim, J., & Haridakis, P., 2008). Nonetheless, there are some issues with studying internet addiction such as having a clear definition of internet addiction compared to high internet usage or dependancy. In turn, this creates a grey area for defining high internet dependency. Overall this creates issues with any advancement in internet addiction studies and any explanations of the factors or conditions that lead to the psychological state (Kim, J., & Haridakis, P., 2008). Once we look into some more of the upfront effects of high internet usage, we can begin to look into the psychological effects this usage can take on users.
There are a few theories surrounding the psychological toll that the internet takes on users with a very high intake. One of these theories is a neurobiological theory wherein it discusses the relationship between disorders such as depression and internet usage. This theory discusses how neurotransmitters may be abnormal in their transmission of chemicals like dopamine, which is often a large player in discussions involving addiction as it is a chemical that contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction (Tokunaga, R. S, 2017). Another theory that is touched upon is the cognitive-behavioral model which talks about pre-existing mental disorders like depression. A summary of this theory is that people who suffer from depression or loneliness may feel more confident through their online interactions, in turn making the user prefer online interactions compared to in-person interactions creating an addiction to these habits (Tokunaga, R. S, 2017). The next theory is explained through social cognitive and media use theory. Somewhat similar to the neurological theory Through these theories, we see an explanation that discusses the experience of solitude or anxiety that increases the likelihood of users expecting Internet use to mitigate the aversive feelings that accompany their distressed psychological conditions and make the Internet use habituated. Many people who fall into internet addiction enjoy the control and their own personal self-control issues in real life only heighten their dependency (Tokunaga, R. S, 2017). The final theory related to the relationship between psychological tolls and internet dependency is a strength model in self-control. The account of self-control failure illustrates that regulating dysphoric moods causes the body to preserve the energy needed to control the use of the Internet, particularly when the Internet is used to alleviate those emotions caused by depression and loneliness. The short-term resource depletion arising from regulating adverse moods is accelerating the growth of Internet habit (Tokunaga, R. S, 2017). These theories do link heightened increases in psychological issues based on internet dependency however they all state that these issues are predecessors to the dependency. While the internet can cause changes in someone’s depression or loneliness, it does not directly cause any psychological disorders.
Finally, we will be focusing on the physiological effects that high internet usage has on users.
Internet addiction can have many adverse effects on the mind and body. While there are many debates on the direct impact based on dependency to the internet, there are still some areas that have yet to be explored when it comes to this new-wave addiction. Even so, there are some visible and non-visible effects that can occur when someone is suffering from internet addiction. Through more research and studies maybe one day we can truly dive deep into internet and social media addiction.
- Kim, J., & Haridakis, P. (2008). The Role of Internet User Characteristics and Motives in Explaining Three Dimensions of Internet Addiction. Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1–35. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.rit.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ufh&AN=36957157&site=ehost-live
- Tokunaga, R. S. (2017). A meta-analysis of the relationships between psychosocial problems and internet habits: Synthesizing internet addiction, problematic internet use, and deficient self-regulation research. Communication Monographs, 84(4), 423–446. https://doi-org.ezproxy.rit.edu/10.1080/03637751.2017.1332419
- Younes, F., Halawi, G., Jabbour, H., El Osta, N., Karam, L., Hajj, A., & Rabbaa Khabbaz, L. (2016). Internet Addiction and Relationships with Insomnia, Anxiety, Depression, Stress, and Self-Esteem in University Students: A Cross-Sectional Designed Study. PLoS ONE, 11(9), 1–13. https://doi-org.ezproxy.rit.edu/10.1371/journal.pone.0161126
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