Category: Media & Culture / February 12, 2013 11:28 AM EST
Many clinics across the UK are treating patients addicted to social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter, with a study by the University of Chicago finding it can even be more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.
Author and illustrator Gemini Adams is a self-confessed addict who has tried to replace her addiction to Facebook by shunning the website and taking up yoga, a hobby deemed as part of her digital de-tox.
"That little sensation would come up to see if someone commented on something I wrote earlier. And I used to be a smoker and it's very similar, that sort of sensation. Needing to have something, needing to go and do something," said Adams.
Adams won't use Facebook now for more than half an hour at a time - and once a week she'll go 24 hours straight without internet altogether.
"Because I work from home and as a writer and someone who does a lot of research I found that it was on permanently and I might write for 20 minutes and I would go on Facebook for a moment just to check a few things. But I think what's dangerous about it is that you do go on for a few seconds just to check, or a feed or something. And yet somehow you're still sitting there 30 minutes later and half an hour of your time has just disappeared," said Adams.
Adams has written and illustrated a book called 'The Facebook Diet', as a humorous take on the condition.
"I remember just feeling really kind of revolting and knotted up inside, physically, because I havent been exercising and just in this position hunched over a computer," she added.
"It's that unconscious use that I think is so dangerous because without establishing set times to say, right, I'm just going to go and check my feed for 10 minutes a day, or check it once in the morning and once in the evening. If you have it open all day long, you really don't know how long you're on it for and that's what I was experiencing. And I realised I wasnt being as productive as I had been previously and so I did set up digital boundaries for myself, around my usage.''
Adams now sets herself 'digital boundaries', where she will only use Facebook for a certain amount of time in the day and no more than 30 minutes at a time. Once a week she will go on a digital detox, where she avoids the internet altogether for a period of 24 consecutive hours. Yoga now forms a big part of her detox, as well as writing, using a pen and paper rather than a computer.
In the UK, social media has been recognised as an official addiction. A study last year by the University of Chicago found it can even be more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. The research shows that social network features such as ''Likes'' and ''re-tweets'' give users a burst of the addictive neurotransmitter dopamine, while a lack of endorsements can provoke jealousy and anxiety. Signs of addiction include spending more than 5 hours per day on a social media website.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham says he treats around 100 social media addicts a year at this clinic in London. His patients range from children to adults of 35 years old.
"They start to miss or avoid doing the necessary things in life, even at a fundamental level of self-care. They delay eating or avoid eating or drinking, delay sleep, miss meetings or delay getting into work or college," said Graham.
The Tavistock and Portman Clinic is an NHS clinic in London devoted to treating social media addiction. Dr Richard Graham treats around 100 patients a year for the condition, which he says is linked to gaming and internet addictions. He says teenage girls are the most susceptible to social media addiction, with peer pressure and the need to be seen online both major factors.
Treatment begins with complete abstinence and a timetable of organised activities. He can then determine what factors may be luring a patient back to their addiction.
(Video Source: Reuters)