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Facebook,Tweeters and pinging is rapidly becoming a part of the fabric of the society, especially among the younger generation.
These are beneficial communication tool for youths who are both multilingual and technology-savvy for social, commercial, or political purposes.
Many young adults, thanks to educational opportunities, are comfortable using mobile technologies to interact. Social media through the Internet has created a realm where users constantly share information, track responses, and explore news and opinion in a transparent environment.
The Internet, which is no longer tethered to fixed-line connection, has ensured increase in both the number of internet users and the time spent on line. Little wonder a 2011 report by CNN stated that Facebook accounted for more web traffic than Google, the search giant.
Hardly will individuals give up their social media right. Certainly options of using a phone that just made calls and sent texts, given up the opportunity of watching TV without a laptop on one’s knee or having to do away with the Twitter or pinging is not attractive any more. But it is an indication of an addiction to the technology.
Are you surprise that social media such as Facebook and Twitters are addictive in nature and permeating every single part of our daily lives, so making internet the “new”cocaine? Well, evidences from a new brain scan study found that not only can obsessive Internet use be addictive, but it can also cause similar brain changes that occur with alcoholics and drug addicts.
Researchers compared brain scans of 17 men and women who were diagnosed with Internet addiction disorder with the brain scans of 17 people who were not addicted to surfing the web. They were between the ages of 14 and 21 and lived in China.
The report, which was published in the January issue of PLoS One, said that the researchers found more “abnormal white matter” in the internet addicted individuals. Abnormal white matter can disrupt pathways in the brain related to emotions, self control and decision making.
Individuals with serious internet addiction include gamers who spend long hours on various games to the extent that it impairs their quality of life. The addiction in some gamers is so much that they are unable to emotionally connect with anything outside the game. It can interfere with school, work, family and social relationships.
Individuals with obsessive Facebook use for instance, may find they have an unhealthy neediness for it. They might wake up and the first thing they check is their Facebook account. And it is the last thing they do at night. Nothing else thrills them or they may feel “empty” without Facebook because all they want to do is to spend time on Facebook, even to the exclusion of getting work done or meeting obligations.
Such individuals are not able to go for more than a day without using the Facebook. Even if they are not on Facebook constantly, they are found to be checking it many times during the day.
A study involving students who sought to go without media for 24 hours recorded their reactions to this, and included such feelings as : fretful, confused, anxious , irritable, insecure, nervous, restless, crazy, jealous, angry, lonely, depressed and jittery and paranoid.
Other studies have found similar changes in “white matter” in people who are addicted to alcohol, cocaine, heroin and marijuana. In addition, studies have shown that people addicted to video games also suffer similar symptoms.
Professor Oye Gureje, a consultant psychiatrist, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Oyo State described addiction as an habitual way of doing things that an one finds irresistible or cannot control its use.
According to Professor Gureje, anything that is done in excess, which can generate some excitement, can lead to repetitive behavior and lead to what might be described as an addiction.
The public’s understanding of addiction seems to be growing, with a more general acceptance of the scientific reality that it is a disease, not a personal weakness. At the same time, non-chemical addictions such as gambling, sex, food, even video games or the Internet are still more of a mystery.
The medical expert, corroborating the fact that several young people can be said to have Internet addiction disorder (IAD) due to their obsessive Internet use, stated, “Already, we know that there are young people who have what might be called Internet addiction, which is why they cannot pull themselves away from the Internet. On the Internet, they can be on any of those social networks: Twitters, Facebook and so on.
“Certainly not all people that use the internet end up becoming addicted. According to Professor Gureje, “it is not likely that somebody would be addicted to the Internet when they are not engaged in those kinds of activities such as Facebook and Twitters.”
Like every habit, some people are more vulnerable to developing an addiction than others. “Some people have a higher a vulnerability to become addicted to different kinds of stimulating or exciting habits. Vulnerability can be genetic, meaning it can be personality based. It is not everybody that goes on the Internet or that has something to do with the internet, even on a constant basis that will develop addiction to it.
“But those who have that kind of predisposition or vulnerability may become addicted. It is the same way that not everyone who experiments with illicit drugs, alcohol or any addictive substance who will actually become addicted to such substances.
“Of course, one may never know who is going to develop that addiction until they are repeatedly exposed to the addictive behaviour. So that is why prevention may be a better way of handling it than a cure.
Professor Gureje said it was better that young people, who were getting too habituated to using the Internet were discouraged from doing so. He stated “it is not just because of the possibility that it does waste their time, but also because if they have any vulnerability to developing addictive behaviour, it might manifest in that way.”
Meanwhile previous studies have shown that people addicted to mobile phones, laptops, video games and televisions also suffer similar symptoms.