DRAW OF SOCIAL MEDIA MEANS MANY NOW CAN'T DO WITHOUT IT ARE WE ADDICTED TO SOCIAL NETWORKING?

Published 10/04/2012|12:20

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LET'S FACE IT: we're all on Facebook.

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Every student in the country is on the ever-growing social networking site. Most parents, who would have you believe they are 'not going through a mid-life crisis', are on it.

The granny sitting across from you in the internet café is currently making a status about having a cup of coffee in the internet café. We all do it. So why is it we feel like we've missed out when we don't get access to Facebook at least once a day?

Why is it we feel we have to share nearly every moment of real life on this site, for all of our friends, acquaintances, work friends and people we don't even say hello to to see?

The answer is that we have made Facebook a way of life.

You can't win the Lotto or boil the kettle without letting everyone in your social circle know that this is the current update to your life. It's as if life itself has become a website.

I did a survey of a group of 16 students in Transition Year and 31 per cent of them said they update their status or 'check in' at least once a day.

For the minority of you that aren't fluent in the language of Facebook, a 'check in' allows you to broadcast where you are and who is with you.

There seems to be no privacy anymore as you let everyone know the smallest details of your life.

I think it's impossible to ' live in the moment' any more if your mind is busy elsewhere trying to tell everyone else about what it is you're doing. We can't help ourselves!

And when someone responds to these little happenings of our lives, you feel satisfied that you have achieved what you had set out to do.

And it is this back and forth and feeding off each other that makes Facebook addictive.

I'd like to think, however, that it's not completely our fault. With Facebook not only accessible on our computers but our phones and ipads as well, it's almost unavoidable.

People have constant free access, especially with Blackberry and Android phones. Seventy-five per cent of the students surveyed said they had this access to Facebook.

In this day and age, we often find it hard to just switch off from life for a while and take a break.

This also applies to social networking – a Blackberry user told me 'I'm never logged off'.

Our main reason for using Facebook is to communicate and stay connected with people. You can chat to whomever you want, whenever you want. I reckon this is both the benefit and downfall of the social network.

I think the constant cyber connectivity we have with each other is possibly damaging to our interpersonal social skills.

It gives us less practice in face-to-face communication, and therefore acts as a shield.

I think most people find certain things much easier to say in typed words which, over time, will make things much harder to communicate in person.

We are becoming reliant on Facebook because it helps our lives by making them that little less complicated, easing some social stresses we may have.

The question is: will this eventually affect people's social lives over time?

As a result, relationships are being built more and more over Facebook rather than interacting with people in person.

The majority of people have between 300 and 1,000 'friends' on Facebook.

Now, I don't know about you, but I certainly don't have that amount of people I genuinely consider close friends in real life.

But we feel the need to be friends with all these people on Facebook because Facebook is a world within itself, and in this world, you can voice your thoughts and opinions without feeling judged, you feel you can talk to people more freely and openly and share memories by uploading pictures, but most importantly, you feel equal. A part of something.

Thirty-one per cent of the students surveyed said they hadn't gone anymore than a few days without Facebook, and that's quite shocking.

Even as people go away for a break, some simply can't take a break from social networking.

Rather than thinking 'all my friends at home are really missing out on this brilliant time I'm having here', their mind is focused on what they fear they're missing out back home, and Facebook is the link that will join the two together.

It is the sense of staying completely in touch with our social circles that has become the obsession.

It is unhealthy, but a way of life we're so used to now that it's almost abnormal if you're not part of it.

I think it's safe to say that Facebook is an addiction, and the millions of us around the world who use it would feel lost without it if it were gone tomorrow.

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