Are Social Media Sites True Addictions?
These days the term "addiction" is tossed about so casually, it sometimes feels as though people don't believe they're complete unless they're addicted to something. When I was coming up through the medical ranks, addiction meant serious physical or chemical dependency - usually on some form of alcohol or drugs. But the term has since been broadened - and stretched thin, in my opinion - to include all manner of behaviors that don't really qualify as addictions.
Case in point: the "addiction" to the wildly narcissistic social networking sites and media that are now sweeping the nation. I've recently seen experts weighing in on the "signs" of these addictions to sites like Facebook.
I'm here to tell you that while it's clearly possible for compulsive behaviors to spring up with regard to these types of sites, calling it an "addiction" is taking things too far.
What's the difference between a chemical addiction and an "addiction" to Facebook? It's this: People who have abused their bodies with drugs or alcohol often need serious medical attention to wean their systems off of these substances. People who have squandered their time reacquainting themselves with people they knew for 10 minutes when they were eight years old just need to get a life.
I hate to be that glib about it, and I'm sure many of you will accuse me of being a crusty old timer who can't adapt to change … and maybe you're not off. But I find it personally offensive that people are forever seeking nonexistent medical excuses for their lack of judgment and bad behavior. How about some personal accountability?
Saying that you're addicted to Facebook is like saying a man is "addicted" to TV watching during the NFL playoffs. Facebook is a choice… an enjoyable distraction. And like many enjoyable distractions, some people just take it too far.
There's been no official talk of naming overuse of Facebook as an actual addiction … but don't be surprised if it happens some day soon.
About the author
William Campbell Douglass I.I., M.D. has been called "the conscience of modern medicine."
You can sign up for his "Daily Dose" at DouglassReport.com.