7 Dec 2011

College students may be overusing social media

Author: Sarah Bailey | Filed under: Enterprise Story, Fall 2011, Student Contributor

Social networking sites may be negatively affecting young adults

By Sarah Bailey

Facebook. Twitter. YouTube.

Most students at Bowling Green State University are quick to say they use one or all of these types of social media on their phone or computer throughout the day.

BGSU student Camille Colletti uses Facebook. Photo by Sarah Bailey.

However, students may want to take a second look at exactly how much they’re “logging in” to these sites, according to recent studies which explore how addiction to these media may be possible.

While there may be benefits to using social media such as staying connected with friends, family and co-workers, studies are beginning to show that the negatives are worth looking at.

Students aren’t just reluctant to go without social media, they are incapable, according to a study by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA).

The study, done in 2010, asked 200 students at the University of Maryland, College Park, to go without using any type of media for a day. This included cell phones, iPods, television, radio, magazines, computers and newspapers.

Students were then asked to blog about their experiences. According to the results, students used words such as “addiction” to describe the urges they felt to check their phone or computer. For many of the students, going without media was the equivalent of going without friends and family.

Lee Ashrafioun, a clinical psychology doctoral student who works at the BGSU counseling center, said that students and young adults may rely on social media such as Facebook and Twitter too much.

Lee Ashrafioun, a clinical psychology doctoral student, in his counseling room. Photo by Sarah Bailey.



“There is a social withdrawal. A lot of people seem to rely on these social media places as an outlet because they may be afraid of doing their own social endeavors face-to-face,” he said.

Ashrafioun, who has been involved with recent studies on behavioral addictions and worked with several students at the counseling center, said being obsessed with social media could possibly be on its way to qualifying as an addiction or obsessive compulsive disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The manual is made by the American Psychiatric Association and gives a certain criteria for what qualifies as a mental disorder. If social media addiction qualifies, then psychiatrists nationally would be able to treat their patients as an actual mental disorder.

“It could be an obsessive compulsive disorder, a form of social anxiety, or maybe it could best be classified as an addiction,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

The manual does not currently recognize obsession over social media as an addiction, but in the new proposed manual, pathological gambling is going to be considered an addictive disorder. Gaming, e-mail/texting, and porn use are the only current recognized Internet addictions, Ashfrafioun said.

“With social media becoming so big, my guess is that fairly soon more research will come out looking at social media specifically,” he said.

Alan Davis, also a clinical psychology doctoral student at BGSU, attempted to go without Facebook for two weeks for a class project last spring. He made it two days before giving in.

“There can be a compulsive use for Facebook,” Davis said. “It’s one of the first things I do in the morning and one of the last things I do at night.”

For the assignment, students could choose to give up a behavior such as a food or substance. The point of the experience was to have students understand what it would be like to give up something like a substance abuser or addict would.

Alan Davis, a clinical psychology doctoral student at BGSU, in his office. Photo by Sarah Bailey.


“It was almost unbearable because I wanted to know what was happening, who was talking about what, and who was on,” he said.

The first day was the easiest because he was busy during the day with class. It became harder at night when he was at home in his apartment.  By the second day, he felt cravings throughout the day to know what was going on. After more and more urges to check, he finally gave in that night, he said.

“I think a lot of this compulsion with it goes into the immediate access and instant gratification,” he said. “I rationalized in my mind that it was OK to check because it was just a school project.”

Looking back, Davis said he learned a lot from his behavior. After the project he made some changes, including removing e-mail and text notifications from his phone in order to decrease how many times he checked it.

“What it taught me is that there is something about online social networking that has a similarity of an addictive or compulsive quality,” he said.

According to a project by the Pew Research Center in June, 2011, the number of people using social networking sites has almost doubled since 2008.

According to the survey, 79 percent of American adults surveyed said they used the Internet, and 47 percent said they used a social networking site.

Also, 31 percent of people who said they use Facebook said they use it several times a day. For Twitter users, 20 percent said they use it several times a day too, according to the survey.

Caroline Wright, a sophomore at BGSU majoring in business, said that social media may be used so much that it subtracts from everyday life.

“People can get so wrapped up in it that it’s practically all they do,” Wright said. “I think people just get so involved with it that they can’t stop.”

Wright, who uses both Facebook and Twitter, said BGSU students’ use of social media may be a little excessive. The idea of being addicted to Facebook or any type of social media is a possibility, she said.

“A lot of my friends say it interferes with doing homework by helping them procrastinate,” she said.

BGSU professor Jack Santino said that while social media can enhance a lesson plan in the classroom, it can also block students’ abilities to learn.

Santino allows students to use laptops in class, but only for note-taking or disability purposes.

“If it’s not relevant to what is going on in the classroom, then it is a distraction,” Santino, a professor from the popular culture department, said.

Students who appear lost in their iPhones and computers aren’t physically able to participate, and are a distraction to teachers and students, he said.

“You see that people are in another world and disconnected,” he said.

BGSU student Camille Colletti said although she uses social media to stay in touch with people and be updated on events, sites like Facebook can cause drama.

Everyone can be addicted in some way to social networking sites, because they are constantly checking their newsfeeds throughout the day, she said.

“Everyone’s always on Twitter or Facebook doing something,” she said. “You’re always going to see college students who get on first thing when they get on the Internet,” said Colletti, a sophomore majoring in sports management.

Students at BGSU are more involved with Twitter than Facebook, she said. The majority of people in college are moving towards Twitter, she said.

“I can tell someone’s entire day just by looking at their Twitter,” she said.

When it comes to applying for jobs in the future, students should watch what they are posting on these sites, she said.

“If you take any sort of picture or post anything bad it could affect everything in your life,” she said.


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