Pew Research data shows that Facebook, of all social media platforms, enjoys the greatest usage among internet browsers, with 71 per cent of users logging in to the site. This shows that almost every person who uses the internet has a social media account, considering that other platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn also have a considerable share of the market.
If results of a recently conducted study are to be taken seriously, it seems the goose, for this generation, is cooked and ready for serving. The study, done by researchers at London-based VisualDNA at the University College London, reckons that majority of many internet users suffer from a condition they’ve referred to as NetBrain.
Sufferers show increased levels of narcissism, poor attention span and fear of missing out (FOMO). Moreover, “they are likely to gamble online and regularly use social networks and gaming sites and apps,” notes the researchers.
Could internet ‘addiction’ lead to psychological disorders?
In Kenya, the government is planning to conduct a study that captures in-depth behavioural patterns among internet users, Catherine Mbau, a psychologist at Arise Counselling Centre, believes there is cause for alarm in the face of many Kenyans and africans alike using smart gadgets which come with social media applications.
The society, she argues, is slowly transforming into a virtual world, with less and less people prioritising physical and face to face human interactions.
“When people stop inviting friends out for some time together; when people skills are eroded; when humans interact like machines; there is a problem. It interferes with their productivity and emotions. Long-term effects may be dangerous,” she explains.
Unsurprisingly, the study by VisualDNA researchers revealed that people with smartphones are almost three times more likely to suffer from NetBrain than those without. According to them, around 11 per cent of UK adults are believed to suffer from the ‘new’ illness.
NetBrain, the team concluded, increases the likelihood for anti-social behaviour fourfold. The condition further destabilises work-life balance. Those who scored high on NetBrain appeared almost three times more likely to score high for work-life tension.
Catherine advises the need to self-regulate to avoid this pitfall.
This, however, is dependent on the ability to identify that one has a problem.
“One should be keen on complaints from close relatives and family. Such should not be taken for granted because they could point to the exact problem, even though there is a possibility that it may be misconstrued for blatant attack.”
Social media addiction, adds Catherine, could cause other problems “like cheating spouses.”
She predicts that heavy internet users may develop clandestine relationships online, since they avoid actual relationships with the people they really know.
Plus, it is always a possibility that psychopaths roam through the virtual space that is online. While one may believe that they are genuinely enjoying technology, it may as well be the source of their troubles.
All is not lost though. Catherine advises that every consumer of technology should draw limits and define how much they need. “Ask yourself, ‘How productive is this? How is my social life?’” she states.
Being accountable for your own time; how you spend it’ doing what; with whom; using what, is the beginning of taking charge, argues Catherine.
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