Facts and figures: ​The rise of Social Media addiction

What you need to know

Picture: Joseph Xuereb, Flickr

Picture: Joseph Xuereb, Flickr

Social media was enabled by the digital revolution and rapid increase in mobile technologyfrom netbooks to tablets, to smartphones and smartwatches. Apps such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp and a whole lot more, are all enjoyed by social media users. It is estimated there will be 2.67 billion social network users by 2018.

In April 2015 in the US, it was reported by Pew Research Centre that 24 per cent of teens go online “almost constantly,” facilitated by the widespread availability of smartphones.

We have all heard the toddler screaming for their iPad before breakfast, and gamers who are reluctant to join the family for dinner (independent of gender, age, or ethnicity). This is causing concern to many with speculation into whether we are ‘addicted’ to our devices.

Social networking already accounts for 28 per cent of all media time spent online, and users aged between 15 and 19 spend at least three hours per day on average using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And perhaps even more worrying, around 70 per cent of internet use of people at work has nothing to do with their job.

According to the ABS in 2013, those in New South Wales lead the charge with 32 per cent spending 18.1 hours a day online... that's almost two-thirds of our day!

Some of the social problems that arise from social media addiction include: sleep depravity, anxiety, depression, loss in academic studies and work, and anger management issues. There is increasing anecdotal evidence into the phenomena with stories of checking notifications while driving, on the toilet, having a shower, and even in bed while being intimate. I think we all remember the post-coital #AfterSex selfie craze!

There are plenty of stories; however, there is very little accurate data. There are reports of men addicted to video games who cannot keep a 9-5 job, there are women suffering from depression and anxiety because they compare their online status with that of their peers, there are children who message on Instagram throughout the night, and those who are addicted to their work at the expense of all physical relationships around them.

Until now, studies into smartphone usage have been left to self-reporting mechanismsbut voluntary audit logs that have been manual are often incomplete, or under-report actual usage; and closed trials are rarely representative of reality.

Professor Katina Michael resides at Wollongong University and specialises in online addiction. She is supporting a new Android Social Media monitoring app, Antisocial, which can be downloaded here.

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