Most states and municipalities have no-texting-while-driving laws due to the obvious hazard. While any reasonable person would agree with these laws in concept, evidently many of us continue to engage in this very dangerous practice. A current report from the National Safety Council states that cell phone use while driving is a factor for 1.6 million crashes each year, there are almost 330,000 injuries caused from texting and driving, and texting is responsible for 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States.
To varying degrees, we love our gadgets and devices despite the annoyances or even the risk. Steve Tobak in his article “Why We Love and Hate Our Gadgets” asserts that, “If nothing else, our gadgets give us the illusion of control in a chaotic world. It’s comforting to know that, on this crazy miserable planet, we can still get a printer to work or resolve an IP conflict.
In addition to the pros and cons of physically using our cell phones, tablets, gadgets, and computers, something else to consider is the amount of time and emotional investment spent using them. Although not officially declared as a medical disorder or disease, the behaviors associated with excessive social media usage are getting a lot of attention for further research. Like many compulsive tendencies that interfere with other areas of life and have negative effects, staying on Twitter and Facebook sites for hours at a time becomes what could be described as an addiction.
One very interesting study conducted by Ethan Kross, et al, found that Facebook use, over time, had a negative effect on how research subjects felt both moment-to-moment and in satisfaction with their lives as a whole. The PLOS article states, “On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.”
If our long term effect from using social media may not be so great, why do we keep doing it? This question was the topic of a study conducted by Harvard University’s Psychology Department. Interestingly, it found that there is a biological reward through activation of the ‘feel good’ region of the brain when people disclose their thoughts or information about themselves. Social media acts as the platform through which we share this information, thus supplying an immediate gratification that over time may lead to addiction.
Dr. Adi Jaffe, Director of Research, Education, and Innovation at Alternatives, an addiction treatment program, offers more insight into the downside of this phenomenon. “The immediacy and reward associated with social media (especially through mobile avenues) can be thought of as a ‘quick hit’ and would be expected to result in a minority of users experiencing ‘addiction-like’ symptoms,” he says. In defining this burgeoning social media obsession, Dr. Luskin, the President of the Society for Media Technology and Psychology of the American Psychological Association, says” “We draw the line between habit and addiction when it interferes with living a normal life. There is a small minority of people addicted and the good thing is that they can be helped.”
On a personal level, social media provides the outlet for news, photos, and life happenings that would not otherwise be shared with as much saturation or speed as it is now, if at all. My own 87-year-old mother is an example of someone who utilizes Facebook with great gusto to keep in touch with family members from Alaska to Connecticut. And, of course, the Sedona Community Center enjoys staying in touch with all of our Facebook friends to share the fun events, great meals, educational activities, fitness, and volunteer opportunities each week.